The Napoleon of Notting Hill

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British writer GILBERT KEITH CHESTERTON (1874-1936) expounded prolifically about his wide-ranging philosophies-he is impossible to categorize as "liberal" or "conservative," for instance-across a wide variety of avenues: he was a literary critic, historian, playwright, novelist, columnist, and poet. His witty, humorous style earned him the title of the "prince of paradox," and his works-80 books and nearly 4,000 essays-remain among the most beloved in the English language First published in 1904, this allegorical fantasy is, perhaps, Chesterton's most curious book, a futuristic satire on public apathy, the corruption of the ruling class, and the collapse of local tradition. Though set in the year 1984, Chesterton does not concern himself with exploring the possible technological advances on the horizon at the beginning of the century: instead, he looks to the sociological, and so produced a work that comes startlingly close to predicting the indifference of the modern hoi polloi. Known to have inspired the hero of Irish independence, Michael Collins, as well as, perhaps, George Orwell's 1984, this is a stellar example of Chesterton's comic genius.

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