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Jacques the Fatalist and His Master Paperback – May 6 1986

5.0 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (May 6 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140444726
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140444728
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 222 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #854,419 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Yeah. Believe all the reviews below. This book really is amazing. It would feel like it was written yesterday, if it was more derivative -- but it's fresh! The language is incisive, no waste, and the pacing and structure are brilliantly fluid. It's smart and funny, too, and completely unpredictable, filled with weird offhand bursts of bewildering narrativity. And yet balanced, apparently sane. I truly enjoyed reading it. It's great.
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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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Format: Paperback
This book is amazing. It will make many of your conceptions of where things belong in the history of the novel fall apart. Not coincidentally, that is one of the points of this book, being an exercise more than a message: that all apparent armatures of order are one more perspective away from disintegration. This book is really quite sneaky as well. In the beginning, the constant references to the inscriptive certainties in the heavens seem silly. But then little explanations come along (like the geneology of Jacques' crazy horse), and the novel heads down a dark, yet very enchanting road, into a fuzz that's every bit as modern as any you've read. This thing alternately looks like Bunuel, Zola, Stendhal, Faulkner, Kerouac. The picaresque, the uncertain narrator, the structuralists, all seem to be swimming around in this amazing book.
Surely many writers and artists from this era (like Goya) depicted the nobles as effete and incapable of carrying out the governance of the most basic requirements of existence, but here, they also appear (in the image of the 'master') as so withdrawn from the world as to be blind. If you take away all the stories that are told, the only thing that's left of a plot here is the master having his horse stolen right from under his nose while Jacques was gone and then Jacques finding it for him at the end in a beautiful, mock sort of deus ex machina.
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