The Thought Gang

ISBN: 1565842863
ISBN 13: 9781565842861
By: Tibor Fischer

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About this book

"A cult novel for the 1990s" (London Times) from the Booker Prize finalist.

Reader's Thoughts

Helen Wagner

I found my copy of The Thought Gang at a used book fair in Cambridge- rather fitting I soon discovered, as it chronicles the accidental bank-robbing adventures of an ex-Cambridge philosophy professor and his one armed, one legged, hemophiliac partner in-crime.To be fair, I can easily see this book taking a lot of flack for its pretentious use of words- not only those beginning with "z" (which the narrator is quite delighted by), but also the numerous others which far surpass the vocabulary of the average post-graduate student. Fortunately, Tibor keeps you laughing so consistently that it's easy to overlook the fact that there's at least one word that you've never seen before used on nearly every page. With regards to the "z" words that many reviewers seem to have found so frustrating- that's a plot device, not just a fixation of the authors'. Acquaint yourself with nonce symbolism, then come back to comment. (Although as nonce symbolism goes, this is about as obnoxious as it gets).All in all, The Thought Gang is a marvelous romp through pre-millenium France, narrated by a witty but occasionally irritating philosophy burnout. He muses about philosophy, love, war, sex and aging, juxtaposing the comical with the profound with neither diminishing the other. He falls in love, robs multiple banks, drinks copious amounts of wine and expensive liquor and makes some highly questionable decisions. The Thought Gang delights and confounds, brings many laughs and greatly expands the reader's vocabulary. It can occasionally try your patience, but if you can put up with Tibor's flagrant pretension, it's worth every minute of your time.

Carol Lindsey

Ahhhhhhh.. I am in love with Tibor Fischer's brain. His parents were both professional Hungarian basketball players. The guy has won literary awards, offended and delighted people with his book reviews (he isn't afraid to loose a job over an opinion). This book is such a freaking good tale, my sister and I read it aloud to oneanother on a 10 hour road trip to visit relatives in cajun country. You will laugh until a hernia pops out. I will not spoil it for you, find a copy and prepare to become a Fischer groupie.


Fischer's sharp from the first sentence and never holds back. A self-proclaimed lay-about (who's doctorate in philosophy from Cambridge does nothing to protect him from mayhem for most of his life), Eddie Coffin begins his journey into midlife crisis with a bang: he is found by one eyed sociopath Hubert who's prosthetic leg and hand don't stop him from being seriously violent, and driven to bump off French banks for an easy Franc (published before the Euro). Sound like a Guy Ritchie film yet?Our fat, balding middle aged man doesn't just loose his way into bank robbing like some other hapless novel's protagonist; he's the kind of guy that's been using ancient philosophy and argument as a means to all sorts of drama. The novel bounces back through Coffin's past for crazed interludes, just in case you thought that bank robbery would be the height of Coffin's illegalities. He may be a genius, but Coffin's ceaseless cynicism and lack of ambition have landed him in heaps of trouble that seem to get more unbelievable with Hubert and Coffin's amped up heists!The situational comedy abounds. Imagine the bank robbers walk in and lecture you on philosophical theory before calmly strolling out with all the cash. Imagine a football match: cops vs crooks. If you haven't been imagining a chubby Jason Statham in the newest Guy Ritchie, it's because you haven't read this book.Fischer's quick with his word play; every sentence is a bomb of sarcastic wit that will make you laugh. The formatting (philosophical argumentation) serves up sarcasm by the slab. It's pure entertainment. I found it to be a bit of a cold novel, though. I'm confident that my ranking of this novel has more to do with my state of mind than the novel itself. It's a fast paced read that should never have taken me a week to read.


Don't ever try to read this book on an airplane. People will think you're crazy on accounts of your random bursts of hysterical laughter. It's weird, it's hysterical, it's wrong on many levels and it uses the letter "z" more than any other book in the history of novels. In short, it's perfect.

Jacqueline Ellis

Fabulous!!!A phlosophy lecturer teamed with a one armed one legged robber,who become the bank robbing duo 'The thought gang' What's not to love.Laugh out loud funny,intelligent and informative.Thoroughly enjoyable!

Marc Nash

First book I've opted for from my GR recommendations algorithm. And algy me old mate, you did a helluva job.From page 1 Fisher's voice gets right inside you and carries you throughout its length. This book joining my select pantheon of books with a laugh out loud moment on virtually every page, along with "Karoo" and "A Fraction Of The Whole". No mean feat.A middle aged loafer sybarite has conned his way from undergraduate to Cambridge philosophy Don. Unfortunately his predilections for alcohol, sex and mental blackout has rendered him needing to flee the British police.He winds up in France, catastrophically loses all his possessions and cash and is held up by an equally luckless villain. But the two forge an offbeat friendship that soon develops into a flowering penchant for robbing banks with a philosophical flourish. "Brute force and rhetoric" thrust in the faces of bank tellers. They merrily dance around the police efforts to catch them. Their stunts get more and more outrageous. And our hero dimly searches for purpose and meaning in his life throughout.Why is this book so engaging? it's the language. Flippantly acerbic, " Her thirteen year old son sat with the patience of someone who knows he only has to wait a few more years before he can join a death squad". The philosophy is debated but remains light and in context most of the time. And Fisher delights in perverting language, nouns like 'midwife' used as a verb, the same word used twice in the same sentence with two different meanings " standing at parties waiting for less fetching women to fetch him". Wonderful inventive word manglings such as 'inter ear banter' to mean thought processes. But it is the gleeful delight with which Fisher laces his story with improbable and obscure words beginning with the letter 'Z'. And he helpfully provides a glossary at the back just for these Z words, only as infuriating as philosophy itself, it is incomplete. Half the time you flick to the back pages, only to find the word isn't listed! I'm reminded of Shakespeare's quote "thou whoreson zed! thou unnecessary letter! " Sums the book up perfectly.Than you GR for your recommendation.


A lot of fun. Feels a little of-its-time, but not necessarily dated. Very strong, convincing voice (better than Amis, with whose early work this book (particularly the earlier parts) must often be compared). Curiously inspiring. Get zet.


A good and entertaining book with an interesting premise. I thought the story execution could have been better though. The end left something to be desired too, and I kept thinking that it would have been a better movie than book which for me is usually not the case.

Maria Grazia

L'idea è geniale. Un filosofo cialtrone, truffatore e amante della bella vita incontra un rapinatore menomato ma affamato di conoscenza, e i due si uniscono per rapinare banche allo scopo di riempirsi le tasche e diffondere la zetetica (onorata branca della filosofia).Il libro è divertente, ma purtroppo spesso ripetitivo e i tentativi di risolvere alcune situazioni con un fraseggio mirabolante alla lunga stancano.Da leggere, ma difficilmente da rileggere.

Babak Fakhamzadeh

An enjoyable book, similar in style and quality to Fischer's The Collector Collector, but nowhere near his magnificent Under the Frog, which was a total masterpiece for being based in reality. Fischer uses his absurdist style once more, which most often works, but is lacking at times, being too far fetched or too much a construct.


This is really a great read for entertainment, very witty and well-written. A Guy Ritchie-esque novel (pre Sherlock Holmes)

Jordan Halsey

This still might be my favorite book. The Lord of the Rings had more impact and Infinite Jest was more ground-breaking but those are the only books that are even in the running, which should tell you how much I love the Thought Gang. Granted, there's hardly a word Tibor Fischer has written that I don't love, but the Thought Gang stands apart even in that company.It's funny, and sad, and it's the story of everyone, although really it is about a broken-down, middle-aged Cambridge philosophy professor (lecturer?) and a one-armed French criminal who meet at the bottom-rung of life and somehow form a partnership to rob their way back up the ladder.Doesn't sound like a very universal story. But packed in there you'll find love, failure, friendship, a little Greek and a lot of luck. And most importantly, you'll find hope. It's never too late, even when it is, and the Coffin Method will save every one of us someday.


Forget the book jacket netherworld, where "darkly comic," "sardonic," "sly," "witty," "riotous," and "uproarious" all mean "you won't laugh once."End to end, only the opening of Todd McEwan's Arithmetic Town and Redmond O'Hanlon's travelogues rival this novel for laughs per page. Read this in public at your peril. You'll laugh. Out loud. Repeatedly.The only caveats are 1) give it twenty pages, and 2) yes, there's one offputting, unfunny ten page stretch during the narrator's graduate school days.The rest is a pageturning joy. Read it, read it, read it.

Matthew L.

"I contemplate the possibility that I have an indestructible liver, one that will be a medical prodigy for centuries, and that long after the rest of me has melted me away, my liver will be transplanted from patient to patient, like a family heirloom."This book was recommended to me by a formerly great friend. Though I'm not certain it stands up as a novel, it is an interesting stream of consciousness piece with some quotable quotes. It's worth a read, but if you're not into it in the first third, I'd put it down, cause it won't change appreciably.

Chris Morton

Took me a while to get into it because it keeps going off the subject but once a friend explained to me that the protagonist had a kind of ADD and that the use of so many z-words is a running gag, I gave it more of a chance and ended up loving it. Just wish the dictionary at the back for all the z-words had included all the z-words used, not just a selection of the most obscure ones. Anyway, a book about bank robberies has never been more fun.

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