To put it briefly, No.
Late in life, G K Chesterton
drew attention to the sub-title of this novel, A Nightmare, and it’s true that its phantasmagoria of chases and
pursuits which play fast and loose with time and space can best be understood
in terms of the kinds of thing which happen in dreams. But that doesn’t solve
the problem that the overall effect is that of something whimsical and silly,
with some cod symbolism/philosophy/theology thrown in at the end in an attempt to
This 1908 book does
have one foot in the real world. Like Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent (1907) - a very good novel - it picks up and makes plot-line use of the
fact that contemporary anarchist and other revolutionary groupings across Europe
were heavily infiltrated and even controlled by secret policemen, notably by
agents of the Tsarist Okhrana created
in 1881. Chesterton’s story line amounts to not much more than the successive (and
rather laborious) revelation that six out of seven members of an anarchist central
committee are all policemen, and very British policemen too.
It’s a short book and I
made myself read it all. There are occasional thoughts which resonate, as when
Conrad (authorially) writes, “ The poor have sometimes objected to being
governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all.” - aptly
illustrated in our own time by the super-rich who back Mr Trump and Mr Johnson
and for whom laws, like taxes, are for the little people.
But, still, No. It wasn’t
worth a couple of my evenings.