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(12/13/2007) Jacques The Fatalist by Denis Diderot. New York. 1986. Penguin Books. Introduction and Notes by Martin Hall. Translated from the French by Michael Henry. keywords: Penguin Classic Paperback France Literature Translated 18th Century. 261 pages. The cover shows a portrait of Diderot by L. M. van Loo, in the Musee du Louvre, Paris (photo: Giraudon). 0140444726.

JACQUES THE FATALIST is a long, but thoroughly entertaining conversation that is constantly interrupted by one revelatory digression after another.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Denis Diderot is among the great writers of the Enlightenment and in Jacques the Fatalist he challenged the artificialities of the conventional French fiction of the period. The world of Jacques is not a fixed and settled one where events are easily assessed and interpreted; on the contrary, it is a world of dizzying variety and unpredictability. For nothing is quite as it seems and an alarming proliferation of anecdotes, characters and philosophical problems continues to spring up around the apparently central theme of the relationship between Jacques and his master, in a skilled and devastating assault on the supremacy of the stylized novel. ‘[A] feast of intelligence, humour and fantasy. Without Jacques le Fataliste the history of the novel remains obscure and incomplete. its true greatness is only perceptible when it is placed beside DON QUIXOTE, TOM JONES or ULYSSES’ - Milan Kundera.

DENIS DIDEROT was born at Langres in eastern France in 1713, the son of a master-cutler. He was originally destined for the Church, but rebelled and persuaded his father to allow him to complete his education in Paris. For most of his twenties and early thirties, Diderot remained nominally a law student, but in fact led a rather precarious and Bohemian existence. He read extensively during this period, and this is reflected in his early works such as the Pensées philosophiques (1746) and the Lettre sur les aveugles (1749) which show a keen interest in contemporary philosophical issues. During the early 1740s Diderot met three contemporaries of great future significance for himself and for the age: d’Alembert, Condillac and J. J. Rousseau. In 1747 Diderot embarked on the most important task of his life, the editorship of the Encyclopédie, whose publication he oversaw until its completion in 1773. Diderot’s boldest philosophical and scientific speculations are brilliantly summarized in a trilogy of dialogues collectively known as Le Réve de d’Alembert (1769). With Le Neveu de Rameau, begun in 1761, and Jacques le Fataliste, written between approximately 1755 and 1784, Diderot produced his greatest works of prose fiction, works which are highly original and daring, both in their form and in their content. Towards the end of his life, by now one of the most famous French writers, Diderot visited Saint Petersburg at the invitation of one of his most powerful admirers, the empress Catherine the Great, to whom he had promised his extensive library in return for her financial assistance. He died in 1784. This translation is based upon the text of JACQUES LE FATALISTE edited by S. Lecointre and J. Le Galliot, Editions Droz, Paris, 1977.

 

 

 

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