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The Napoleon of Notting Hill Paperback – 30 Nov 2007

4.0 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Cosimo Classics (30 Nov. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1602068704
  • ISBN-13: 978-1602068704
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 976,092 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

'An utterly original surreal fantasy … This great book imagines a London composed of medieval city states with Notting Hill ranged in a war against the other boroughs. Has the unexpected, surreal tone of Chestertons other masterpiece, The Man Who Was Thursday.' --The American Chesterton Society --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

The Napoleon of Notting Hill is G. K. Chesterton's first novel. Published in 1904, it is set at the end of the twentieth century. London is still a city of gas lamps and horse-drawn vehicles, but democratic government has withered away, and a representative ordinary citizen is simply chosen from a list to be king. Auberon Quin, a government clerk, something of an aesthete and even more of a joker, becomes king. Purely for his own entertainment he transforms the boroughs of London into medieval city states, with heraldic coats of arms and colourfully uniformed guards, governed by provosts in splendid robes. Then he encounters Adam Wayne, the dedicated young Provost of Notting Hill, who takes Quin's ideas more seriously than the king himself. When the other boroughs try to force a new road through Notting Hill, Wayne, convinced that small is beautiful, fights to defend his territory. Chesterton enacts arguments about the nature of human loyalties that are still current, glorifying the little man, while attacking big business and the monolithic state. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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The humour of G.K.Chesterton is sometimes completely zany, but most of the time delightfully inventive. I found the opening few pages of the zany type quite irritating. They were intended to introduce two themes: (1) you never know what kind of a monarch you get from a hereditary monarchy: you might just as well pick a monarch at random. (2) Auberon Quin is as mad as a hatter - at this stage there appears to be no method in his surrealistic sense of humour. And then he is picked on as the next king.

As king, however, there is method in his madness and purpose in Chesterton's wit. The King is determined to take nothing seriously, and politics the least of all. One day he hits on the idea how amusing it would be to give autonomy to the boroughs of London, to revive their antiquity (he makes up what might be the historical origin of names like Kensington, Bayswater, Notting Hill etc) and to equip them with medieval coats of arms and a medieval set of officials like High Provosts who may enter his presence only when escorted by a group of halberdiers in the liveries designed by the King. And that is what he does.

After ten years, however, conflict breaks out between some of these boroughs, when businessmen plan to drive a highway through three of them, from Hammersmith to Westbourne Grove. Adam Wayne, the passionate 19 year old High Provost of Notting Hill, objected to the demolition of a little street in the borough. It is not only a question of independence: it is a question of maintaining a stand against Modernity. To the King's confusion, what Quin had constructed as a matter of whimsical amusement, Wayne was taking as a matter of deadly seriousness, a sacred ideal worth fighting for.
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The father Brown series as seen on a well known British TV channel are based on the works of G K Chesterton. I personally liked the series, so I got the book for my Kindle!
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Format: Paperback
"The Napoleon of Notting Hill" is probably the most absurd novel I've ever read. The author, G K Chesterton, was a colorful, verbose and highly eclectic British intellectual. He supported the Boer and the Irish, opposed the suffragettes, and collaborated with Guild Socialists, only to become entangled with the notorious Catholic fundamentalist Hilaire Belloc. I honestly admit that I don't quite understand the man!

Still, there seem to be some unifying themes in Chesterton's voluminous writings. The most obvious is traditional Christianity, first in the form of Anglicanism, later as Catholicism. The reader shouldn't be surprised if some of the characters in his novels turn out to be angels, the Devil, or God himself. Second is a kind of populism. Chesterton emphasizes common sense, the opinions of the common man, the everyday life of the common people, etc. As one of the characters in "The Napoleon of Notting Hill" puts it: "The human being, the common man, whom mere geniuses like you and me can only worship like a god". In his economic writings, he idealizes the peasantry. In other contexts, Chesterton says that life in the city is intrinsically interesting, and calls on realist writers to relate to it. Finally, there is a search for authenticity, as opposed to the artificial greyness of modernity and the tyranny of the Zeitgeist. Somehow, Chesterton believed that this authenticity could be found among ordinary people, hence making a connection to his populism.

All three themes are present in "The Napoleon of Notting Hill", published in 1904 and one of Chesterton's earliest novels. Both the setting and the plot are completely absurd, although the absurdity is revealed to have a point at the very end of the story. The setting is a futuristic Britain.
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By E. A. Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 6 Sept. 2008
Format: Paperback
Imagine a 1984 London where society has frozen at turn-of-the-century levels, a King is randomly selected from the populace, and nobody really takes politics seriously.

Of course, it only takes one wise, weird little man to turn all of that on its head. G.K. Chesterton's magnificently absurd comic novel explores a common theme in his books -- a person who entertains himself with an absurdly serious world -- in an increasingly heated situation where the little boroughs of London have become warring kingdoms. Not much in the way of sci-fi, but a delicious little social satire.

Friends of the eccentric Auberon Quin are understandably shocked when he is selected as the new King of England... especially since his main focus is definitely not power ("Oh! I will toil for you, my faithful people! You shall have a banquet of humour!"). After bumping into a young boy with a toy sword, Quin decides to revive the old city-states of medieval times, with city walls, banners, halberdiers, coat of arms, and ruling provosts -- all as a joke.

But ten years later, a young man named Adam Wayne -- who happens to be the little boy who inspired Quin -- refuses to let a road go through Notting Hill. Quin is first delighted and then perplexed by Wayne, a man who treats the King's joke with deadly seriousness. Now a full-out medieval battle is brewing between the boroughs of London, and Auberon Quin finds that his joke may have some very serious consequences...

G.K. Chesterton was no H.G. Wells when it came from trying to imagine the future --- the 1984 London he imagined was pretty much the same, technologically and socially, as the London of 1904.
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