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The Napoleon of Notting Hill Paperback – Feb 1 1991
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About the Author
G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) was singled out as a writer as a young boy and followed the profession until his death, writing prolifically about 'everything under the sun'. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.