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

Diego Bracho

hasta ahora aprendí: entra profundamente en la edad mediana, echa a perder tu carrera, malversa grandes sumas, dirígete a paises extraños para hundirte en la botella hasta morir, da un golpe a un banco... y así tu vida amorosa no encontrará fin.


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.


Tibor Fischer's novel Thought Gang presents, for me, a reader's paradox. On one hand, it is incredibly well written, genuinely funny and the plot premise is incredible.Allow me a quick synopsis.A terminal slacker, drunkard, balding philosophy professor/philosopher named Eddie (our protagonist) sets out to flee his native London in the face of professional doom and pending legal action as he is found naked and hung over in a room full of child porn (no explanation on how or why he is there is ever provided).He chooses France as his refuge as W) it is not London, X) he speaks French fluently, Y) there is an ample supply of wine and Z) Eddie is something of a foodie and France is the place to be if one is afflicted of this.Once there, Eddie loses his luggage and most of his money. While trying to check into a cheap motel, he is the victim of an attempted mugging by an ex-convict named Hubert. Eddie had nothing to give Hubert, and the would-be mugger then becomes a guest Eddie's room. Note on Hubert: he spent more than a decade in prison for bank robbery after his get-away car was stolen while it was parked outside the bank, and he only has one arm and one leg.Penniless, Eddie decides to rob a bank with Hubert's guns (against his urging otherwise), and it goes splendidly. Hubert is then enamored by his philosophizing accomplice and subsequently declares himself a study of philosophy. Thus, there bank-robbing crew begins, and Hubert dubs their duo the Thought Gang.In summary, the book seems compelling. In exercise, it is something else. While the story has all the ammunition for a wild ride through philosophy and literature, the author often becomes mired in his own prose. Admittedly, this sort of novel requires a length of narrative interjection, and I doubt few authors could pull-it-off better than Fischer. In this regard, the best thing about this novel is that Fischer wrote it.In terms of the narrative voice, the worse thing about this novel is that Fischer wrote it. He is obviously a capable author, wonderfully verbose and very knowledgeable in the field of philosophy.So knowledgeable, in fact, that his playfulness with the field of philosophy can easily be considered grand standing - which also does the novel injustice by bringing the narrative to a complete stand still.This stated, there is something endearing about the Thought Gang and I'd recommend it to others ... sort of.

Andrew Pessin

extremely clever, witty, snazzy, snappy, pretty funny -- but i just couldn't stand it and bailed out about 2/3 of the way in ... endless wordplay and puns, but the characters had no soul, nothing to latch on to, and sometimes too much cleverness is just tiring ...


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.

V for Vivacious

Really, really, really hilarious book. Have your favorite search engine rearing to go - filled with philosophical quotes and more z-words than you knew existed, you will truly expand your knowledge if not your vocabulary. All this while laughing your butt off!


Alla fin fine, tutti i nostri manufatti emotivi e neoetici, le nostre risoluzioni, le sicurezze, le grazie fideistiche, le nostre cornici zimmeriane dei dogma, tutte le pose assunte dalla mente non sono altro che la formica (una Zacryptocerus soldato) che dichiara "Sono ben dura" mentre su di lei cala lo scarpone.

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.

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.

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.

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!


I bought this book in London (I think used) and read it on the plane. It went from my eyes to some place lost .... Nevertheless I enjoyed it, but maybe more for the idea of bank robbers who are philosphers. I like the idea of it, which is fantastic. But is the idea better than this book? Perhaps so, but nevertheless I enjoyed the read - which made the travel more... focused on the book then the plan delays, etc.


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.

Doug Orleans

A meandering tale told by a washed-up philosopher who becomes a successful bank robber. Lots of clever non-pun-based wordplay, plus an inordinate number of words starting with Z (including both "zarf" and "zendo", which amused me). There are a few moments of profundity, but for the most part it's not very deep, just rollicking and/or absurd.

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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