The Napoleon of Notting Hill Paperback – Feb 1 1991
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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.
About the Author
Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born in London, England, in 1874. He went on to study art at the Slade School, and literature at University College in London. Chesterton wrote a great deal of poetry, as well as works of social and literary criticism. Among his most notable books are "The Man Who Was Thursday", a metaphysical thriller, and "The Everlasting Man", a history of humankind's spiritual progress. After Chesterton converted to Catholicism in 1922, he wrote mainly on religious topics such as "Orthodoxy" and "Heretics". Chesterton is most known for creating the famous priest-detective character Father Brown, who first appeared in "The Innocence of Father Brown". Chesterton died in 1936 at the age of 62.
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.