May Convivium: Manalive (Part I)

We venture south to usher in Spring, in homage to our trusty friend-from-the-beginning, Bob, who has for two years driven the longest distance to join our soirees.  C’mon down to the Pegasus Restaurant in Coxackie on Thursday May 1st, 7 o’clock in the evening for our next rollicking get-together.

Our reading selection is Manalive, (Part I), a novel about a man who breaks into his own house, has an affair with his own wife, and whose misadventures paint the picture of, as the American Chesterton Society attests, “how to live Chesterton.”  (For April, we’ll discuss Part I, The Enigma of Innocent Smith, then Part II –The Explanations of Innocent Smith– in June.)

Here are Chesterton’s own comments on the novel’s inspiration, from his autobiography:

“… I invented a rudimentary and makeshift mystical theory of my own. It was substantially this; that even mere existence, reduced to its most primary limits, was extraordinary enough to be exciting. Anything was magnificent as compared with nothing… At the backs of our brains, so to speak, there was a forgotten blaze or burst of astonishment at our own existence. The object of the artistic and spiritual life was to dig for this submerged sunrise of wonder; so that a man sitting in a chair might suddenly understand that he was actually alive, and be happy…

Thus, among the juvenile verses I began to write about this time was one called ‘The Babe Unborn’, which imagined the uncreated creature crying out for existence and promising every virtue if he might only have the experience of life. Another conceived the scoffer as begging God to give him eyes and lips and a tongue that he might mock the giver of them; a more angry version of the same fancy. And I think it was about this time that I thought of the notion afterwards introduced into a tale called ‘Manalive’; of a benevolent being who went about with a pistol, which he would suddenly point at a pessimist, when that philosopher said that life was not worth living.”

 

 

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