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The Napoleon of Notting Hill [Paperback]

G. K. Chesterton
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 1 1991 Dover Books on Literature & Drama
A comical futurist fantasy, first published in 1904, about a tradition-loving suburban London community of the 1980s at war with its modernizing neighbors. Chesterton's splendid storytelling gifts and his sympathies for the plight of small nations trying to remain independent are strongly in evidence. 7 illustrations by W. Graham Robertson. New Introduction by Martin Gardner.

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About the Author

Geboren am 29.05.1874 in London; gestorben am 14.06.1936 in Beaconsfield. Chesterton war der Sohn eines Auktionators. Er besuchte die Kunstschule und arbeitete als Karrikaturist und Journalist. Ab 1900 war er hauptberuflich Schriftsteller. Er heiratete 1901. Chesterton betätigte sich in allen literarischen Sparten. Bekannt geworden ist er ist er vor allem durch seine Detektivgeschichten des "Father Brown". --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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5.0 out of 5 stars A wise and exuberant fantasy Aug. 24 2001
Format:Paperback
Chesterton is one of the neglected giants of 20th-century English literature. This book ought to be considered a minor classic of both fantasy and political allegory. It tells the story of the consequences of a decree issued on a whim by a bored governor that London be devolved into districts corresponding roughly to its ancient boroughs, and each given municipal rituals in order to instil a sense of civic belonging. This joke takes on a life of its own, as the citizens of the "new" boroughs take the battle - eventually, literally a battle - to each other. The Napoleon of the title is Adam Wayne, an enthusiastic *citoyen* who takes the new arrangements with great seriousness - and whose territorial aggrandisement and downfall mirror Napoleon's career. The point that Chesterton intimates - in a vastly more effective, because more subtle, way than more explicitly political novelists, such as Upton Sinclair - is that small and knowable communities are a desirable and indeed virtuous focus of our loyalties, but that the aggrandisement of power and territorial ambition tend to corrupt. While fashionable literary opinion (Wells, Shaw, Wyndham Lewis and so many others) was about to take a terrible wrong turning in favour of the totalitarianism of Right or Left, Chesterton's essential and very English sense of moderation formed, and continues to express, a most effective and beautifully written counterpoint.
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Format:Paperback
The theme of the Napoleon of Nottingham Hill is that it is better to live a short exciting life than a long boring one. GKC would argue that the moment when you are most lucid and the world is convinced that you are mad is exactly when you are the most sane. The Napoleon of Nottingham Hill is the story of how an irrational war among London's suburbs finally gives meaning to the lives of moderns who have become so board with living. The book also explains what humor is and how man can stand proud without sinning. If you read one book by GKC, let it be this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A truelly amazing book! June 29 2000
Format:Paperback
This is deffinately one of the best books I have ever read, and if you are into adventure, this is the book! Nahhh...It would take to long to write out the excellent storyline. Get it and read it yourself! You won't regret it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Seriousness sends men mad Sept. 7 2008
By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  79 reviews
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Introduction to the Creative Mind of G. K. Chesterton Sept. 29 2004
By Michael Wischmeyer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This short book, The Napoleon of Notting Hill, written 100 years ago, is a futuristic fantasy, a political satire, a prophetic tale, and a comic novel, all intertwined. Published in 1904, The Napoleon of Notting Hill was G. K. Chesterton's first novel. It has been called the best first novel by any author in the twentieth century.

It has been some years since my first reading of The Napoleon of Notting Hill. Once again I find it to be enjoyable, humorous, highly entertaining, and decidedly thought provoking.

The setting is London in the year 1984, 80 years in the future. Chesterton had tired of endless predictions of futuristic technologies. His future London is identical to Edwardian London - all technological advance halted in 1904. One change is notable: the people have lost faith in political revolutions. Only slow, gradual change, akin to Darwinian evolution, was fashionable. No one was interested in voting, and consequently, democracy had withered away. A ruling monarch, a king, was selected in some capricious, random manner from the governmental class. All was well until Auberon Quin was chosen to rule as king.

As a lark, the new King designs colorful, medieval style uniforms, required dress for all governmental representatives of the London boroughs on official occasions. Reluctantly, city officials comply with the king's ridiculous wish to revitalize local patriotism. Unexpectedly, the Provost of Notting Hill, a sober young man named Adam Wayne, a man without humor, takes the King's command seriously. An attempt by other London boroughs to route a major thoroughfare through Notting Hill leads not only to acrimony, but to actual warfare.

The first chapter is Chesterton's scholarly criticism and friendly ridicule of contemporary (that is, early 1900) prophecies of scientific and technological changes, especially the more utopian futuristic projections, and is titled Introductory Remarks on the Art of Prophecy. The actual story does not commence until chapter two.

This inexpensive Dover edition includes a lengthy, interesting introduction by Martin Gardner. The artist W. Graham Robertson penned seven full page ink drawings and a map of the seat of the war.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wise and exuberant fantasy Aug. 24 2001
By Oliver Kamm - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Chesterton is one of the neglected giants of 20th-century English literature. This book ought to be considered a minor classic of both fantasy and political allegory. It tells the story of the consequences of a decree issued on a whim by a bored governor that London be devolved into districts corresponding roughly to its ancient boroughs, and each given municipal rituals in order to instil a sense of civic belonging. This joke takes on a life of its own, as the citizens of the "new" boroughs take the battle - eventually, literally a battle - to each other. The Napoleon of the title is Adam Wayne, an enthusiastic *citoyen* who takes the new arrangements with great seriousness - and whose territorial aggrandisement and downfall mirror Napoleon's career. The point that Chesterton intimates - in a vastly more effective, because more subtle, way than more explicitly political novelists, such as Upton Sinclair - is that small and knowable communities are a desirable and indeed virtuous focus of our loyalties, but that the aggrandisement of power and territorial ambition tend to corrupt. While fashionable literary opinion (Wells, Shaw, Wyndham Lewis and so many others) was about to take a terrible wrong turning in favour of the totalitarianism of Right or Left, Chesterton's essential and very English sense of moderation formed, and continues to express, a most effective and beautifully written counterpoint.
31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It offends postmodern sentiments and leaves you aghast. July 28 1998
By Clark Massey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The theme of the Napoleon of Nottingham Hill is that it is better to live a short exciting life than a long boring one. GKC would argue that the moment when you are most lucid and the world is convinced that you are mad is exactly when you are the most sane. The Napoleon of Nottingham Hill is the story of how an irrational war among London's suburbs finally gives meaning to the lives of moderns who have become so board with living. The book also explains what humor is and how man can stand proud without sinning. If you read one book by GKC, let it be this book.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the 20th Century's Overlooked Classics May 23 2001
By Oddsfish - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
It really amazes me that G.K. Chesterton isn't read much today, and it really bothers me when I see a list of the "classics" of the 20th century because every list cantains a multitude of works inferior to this novel.
The Napoleon of Notting Hill is set in the future (though the novel isn't futuristic, if that makes any sense at all) in a world where democracy has ceased and human emotion has almost ceased. That is, until a man with a sense of humore is randomly picked to be king. He decides (as a joke) to revive the patriotism and fashions of the 1700's in England. The country goes along with it and takes it all as a joke except for Adam Wayne, the provost of Notting Hill. He begins a war within the city which revives life in the nation.
The Napoleon of Notting Hill is told in an exuberant and comical style. You do laugh out loud at some of the situations and wit portrayed by Chesterton's pen. There is a lot of depth to the book. The king, Auberon Quinn, is symbolic of "laughter," and Adam Wayne is symbolic of "love." Chesterton uses them for his commentary on how the common man should live life. Plus, there is so much more that Chesterton comments on within these few pages which I couldn't begin to go into here.
The Napoleon of Notting Hill is an amazing novel. Any serious student of literature should read it. The Napoleon of Notting Hill is also just a fun story. Hopefully, people will once again begin to read G.K. Chesterton, and The Napoleon of Notting Hill will gain the respect that it deserves.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Napoleon of Notting Hill March 2 2006
By not4prophet - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Not Chesterton's best work, this quirky debut novel is still a must-read for anyone who appreciates the "Prince of Paradox" and his quirky sense of humor. It begins with a humorous overview of some of the more ridiculous social theorists of the day. (Science fiction fans will surely get a kick from a brief mention of H. G. Wells and his far-fetched visions.) Then we observe London society in 1984, changed very little from the early twentieth century, because the drudgery of capitalism and bureaucracy have worn down the human spirit to the point where it can barely stand. When a pint-sized clerk named Auberon Quinn ius randomly selected as head of state, he decides to turn London into a mideival carnival for his own amusement.

One man, Adam Wayne, takes the order to heart. He sets out to organize the neighborhood of Notting Hill, drafting an army to fight invaders from other streets who are trying to run over his corner of London. At first Wayne's behavior baffles everyone, but eventually his dedication to the cause proves infectious, with delightful results. At a thin 174 pages (including illustrations), the story goes by in a flash. Comedy galore, along with plenty of offbeat characters and bizarre unfolding events.

As I said, it's not Chesterton's best book. The writing is somewhat rough, particularly in two large leaps of time between chapters. Moreover the characters are abusrd in ways that don't add up too much; the brilliance of later works like "The Man who Was Thursday" and "The Club of Queer Trades" is that everyone's behavior makes perfect sense in the context of the story. But "The Napoloen of Notting Hill" is still well worth reading.
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