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Penguin Classics Jacques The Fatalist [Paperback]

Denis Diderot , Martin Hall , Michael Henry
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 1 1985 Penguin Classics
Denis Diderot (1713-1784) was among the greatest writers of the Enlightenment, and in "Jacques the Fatalist", he brilliantly challenged the artificialities of conventional French fiction of his age. Riding through France with his master, the servant Jacques appears to act as though he is truly free in a world of dizzying variety and unpredictability. Characters emerge and disappear as the pair travel across the country, and tales begin and are submerged by greater stories, to reveal a panoramic view of eighteenth-century society. But, while Jacques seems to choose his own path, he remains convinced of one philosophical belief: that every decision he makes, however whimsical, is wholly predetermined. Playful, picaresque and comic, Diderot's novelis a compelling exploration of Enlightment philosophy. Brilliantly original in style, it is one of the greatest precursors to post-modern literature.

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About the Author

Denis Diderot was born at Langres in eastern France in 1713. After graduating in Paris in 1732, he was nominally a law student for ten years, but was actually leading a precarious bohemian but studious existence. In the early 1740s he met three contemporaries who were of great significance to him and to the age: a'Alembert, Condillac and Rousseau, who assisted Diderot in the compilation of the Encyclopedie, which he worked on until its completion in 1773. Interested in the mind-body dichotomy, his work was a bold mixture of science and philosophy. He died in 1784. Translated by Michael Henry with an introduction and notes by Martin Hall

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An interactive literary device Jan. 6 2003
Format:Paperback
Two centuries or so before "modern" writers began writing experimental novels, Denis Diderot, the force behind the Encyclopaedia effort, wrote this strange and indeed very "modern" novel in which the author leads a conversation with the reader, asking him where he (or she, of course) would want to go and what to do with the characters and the story. Here we see the author in the very process of creation, exposing his doubts, exploring his options, and playing with the story.
There is really no plot as such. Jacques, a man who seems to believe everything that happens is already written "up on high", but who nonetheless keeps making decisions for himself, is riding through France with his unnamed master, a man who is skeptic of Jacques's determinism but who remains rather passive throughout the book. Fate and the creator-author will put repeatedly to test Jacques's theory, through a series of more or less fortunate accidents and situations, as well as by way of numerous asides in the form of subplots or stories.
The novel is totally disjointed and these asides and subplots blurb all over the place, always interrupted themselves by other happenings. The most interesting of them is the story of Madame de Pommeroy and her bitter but ultimately ineffectual revenge on her ex-lover.
Diderot confesses to having taken much from Sterne's "Tristram Shandy" and Cervantes's "Don Quixote". This last novel's influence seems obvious at two levels: Cervantes also talks to the reader, especially in Part Two, and also reflects abundantly on the creative process.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Audacious and very funny. Oct. 11 2000
Format:Paperback
Anyone who thrilled at Calvino's 'If on a winter's night a traveller...', but despaired at ever finding another book like it (uniqueness DOES have its price), need fear no longer. 'Jacques', acknowledged by Calvino himself as a major influence, is one of the great precursors of post-modern literature. Like 'If on', the book is crammed with stories unfinished or interrupted by digressions, accidents, more interesting stories. Whereas the 19th centruy novelist generally talked down to his audience and explained everything, Diderot gives his reader a lot of freedom, and one of the dialogues of this book, a la Calvino, is between author and reader. Each story, incomplete or no, is a masterpiece of narrative (cinephiles might recognise the story of Madame de la Pommeraye as the basis of Robert Bresson's 'Les Dames du bois du Boulogne'); the formal experimentation does not mean blindness to a panorama of 18th century society - soldiers, peasants, thieves, innkeepers, aristocrats, prostitutes - and place (country, city, foreign climes) in a France on the cusp of Revolution.
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars The most relevant Enlightenment work for our times Sept. 16 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Jacques is, in terms of subject matter and narrative voice, the most modern work to come from the Enlightenment. It is a hilarious and thoughtful work from an author who found the acceptance of current literary traditions generally ridiculous. Diderot is amazingly adept at building up ominous situations which unnaturally trigger the reader's foreshadowing sensors, only to destroy all of one's expectations, laughingly, with a hammer. Truly a great work, full of wonderful philosophy and revolutionary expression.
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An interactive literary device Jan. 6 2003
By Guillermo Maynez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Two centuries or so before "modern" writers began writing experimental novels, Denis Diderot, the force behind the Encyclopaedia effort, wrote this strange and indeed very "modern" novel in which the author leads a conversation with the reader, asking him where he (or she, of course) would want to go and what to do with the characters and the story. Here we see the author in the very process of creation, exposing his doubts, exploring his options, and playing with the story.
There is really no plot as such. Jacques, a man who seems to believe everything that happens is already written "up on high", but who nonetheless keeps making decisions for himself, is riding through France with his unnamed master, a man who is skeptic of Jacques's determinism but who remains rather passive throughout the book. Fate and the creator-author will put repeatedly to test Jacques's theory, through a series of more or less fortunate accidents and situations, as well as by way of numerous asides in the form of subplots or stories.
The novel is totally disjointed and these asides and subplots blurb all over the place, always interrupted themselves by other happenings. The most interesting of them is the story of Madame de Pommeroy and her bitter but ultimately ineffectual revenge on her ex-lover.
Diderot confesses to having taken much from Sterne's "Tristram Shandy" and Cervantes's "Don Quixote". This last novel's influence seems obvious at two levels: Cervantes also talks to the reader, especially in Part Two, and also reflects abundantly on the creative process. Moreover, the tone and environment of the book is very similar to the Quixote: two people engaged in an endless philosophical conversations while roaming around the countryside and facing several adventures which serve to illustrate one or antoher point of view.
Diderot's humour is bawdy and practical and the book is fun to read. The exact philosophical point is not clearcut, but it will leave the reader wondering about Destiny, Fate, and Free Will.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most relevant Enlightenment work for our times Sept. 15 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Jacques is, in terms of subject matter and narrative voice, the most modern work to come from the Enlightenment. It is a hilarious and thoughtful work from an author who found the acceptance of current literary traditions generally ridiculous. Diderot is amazingly adept at building up ominous situations which unnaturally trigger the reader's foreshadowing sensors, only to destroy all of one's expectations, laughingly, with a hammer. Truly a great work, full of wonderful philosophy and revolutionary expression.
20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Audacious and very funny. Oct. 11 2000
By darragh o'donoghue - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Anyone who thrilled at Calvino's 'If on a winter's night a traveller...', but despaired at ever finding another book like it (uniqueness DOES have its price), need fear no longer. 'Jacques', acknowledged by Calvino himself as a major influence, is one of the great precursors of post-modern literature. Like 'If on', the book is crammed with stories unfinished or interrupted by digressions, accidents, more interesting stories. Whereas the 19th centruy novelist generally talked down to his audience and explained everything, Diderot gives his reader a lot of freedom, and one of the dialogues of this book, a la Calvino, is between author and reader. Each story, incomplete or no, is a masterpiece of narrative (cinephiles might recognise the story of Madame de la Pommeraye as the basis of Robert Bresson's 'Les Dames du bois du Boulogne'); the formal experimentation does not mean blindness to a panorama of 18th century society - soldiers, peasants, thieves, innkeepers, aristocrats, prostitutes - and place (country, city, foreign climes) in a France on the cusp of Revolution.
5.0 out of 5 stars Storytelling at its best April 6 2014
By Steven Davis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Jacques the Fatalist is a delightful and surprising story about the art of storytelling itself. There is no plot. Jacques and a nobleman known only as his "Master" are travelling through France. The Author, speaking directly to the Reader, says it's none of our business whence they come or where they are going. But along the way, Jacques entertains his master by telling stories--mainly about his, Jacques', love life. They meet other persons who, while the party is consuming copious amounts of wine, tell Jacques and his Master their stories as well.

There are three narrative levels to this novel: The outer frame in which the Author carries on occasional dialogs with the Reader, the core story of Jacques and his Master, and the various, oft interrupted and resumed, tales that the characters tell one another of love, intrigue, and revenge.

Diderot makes it clear by the author's interjected comments that he is lampooning the novels of his time in which the plot was driven by one improbably coincidence after another. He also takes up the cause against censorship, saying authors should be allowed to write dialog the way people actually speak, profanity and all. And his treatment of Jacques as the intellectual superior of the Master is a subtle political argument against class distinctions.

But the novel is primarily a demonstration of the simple art of telling a good story about believable people. Despite its unorthodox narrative approach, Jacques the Fatalist is fast-moving, captivating, hilarious, sexy, and altogether entertaining.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Satisfied Customer Feb. 6 2013
By Karen L. Kelly - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Satisfied Customer Item was as described instant download was convenient fast shipper I received item quickly. I would order again if I needed something similar.
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