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The Manuscript Found in Saragossa Paperback – September 1, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (September 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140445803
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140445800
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 4.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #159,669 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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This is one of the greatest works of literature ever.
Ian Ference
Potocki combines the supernatural with the erotic in a way that is unique in literature.
Bruce Kendall
I will never forget some of the images, Potocki had quite an imagination.
Neri

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Kate Lawrence on June 28, 1998
Format: Paperback
A quick note: Although Jan Potocki was Polish, he wrote The Saragossa Manuscript in French under the title "Manuscrit trouve' a' Saragosse." I still treasure a beloved and battered copy that bears a 1958 copyright. The translator of that edition, Elisabeth Abbott, did an outstanding job in rendering Potocki's tale into English. The story certainly captivated me at the time -- an 8th grader and a stranger to well-written literary fiction. I believe The Saraossa Manuscript is a landmark in this genre, but especially so considering that it was penned in 1804. The ink on the United States constitution was scarcely dry when Potocki put forth his novel and its ideas.
The Saragossa Manuscript stands out in its treatment of the supernatural. Today, if it were a movie, it might earn an "R" rating in its open treatment of sex. Potocki's novel predates works by beloved American authors such as Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorn, and Edgar Allen Poe. Recalling the public burning of Thomas Hardy's "Jude the Obscure" in the 1890's, one wonders what would have been the outcry had this novel have resurfaced in Victorian times.
To the modern reader, the tone of The Saraossa Manuscript might be reminiscent of the Japanese film "Ugetsu" (The Tales of Moonlight and Rain) by director Kenji Mizoguchi. Its motif is reminiscent of Francis Ford Coppola's movie, "Dracula," where demons do not necessarily present themselves as horrid apparitions, but rather they corrupt their victims though sweet intoxicating seduction. Tanith Lee's novels depicting Azhrarn, Prince of Demons (from Tales of the Flat Earth series) come to mind. This brand of evil puts all mortals to the test, for evil masks itself and becomes beguiling. One needs only to look at 20th century history to see this pitfall all the way from Jim Jones to Adolph Hitler.
Potocki's novel is remarkable and certainly worth a visit by the student of literature and the genre fan.
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58 of 64 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
Some previous editions of Jan Potocki's great saga have been severely edited, or else divided over several volumes. One great strength of the present version is its completeness. And while it reads satisfactorily, no version has yet surpassed Elizabeth Abbott's pioneering English translation from the early 60s. Published in two volumes (The Saragossa Manuscript & The New Decameron), Abbott's is the only version that captures the humor of the original -- and let it be said, this is a hilarious novel, full of educated wit and irony (though you wouldn't guess it after reading the somber editions that have come out lately). On one hand, it courts Enlightenment ideas as they meld into what we know as science; on the other, it skewers superstition and religion. Elizabeth Abbott's version may only be available in used or antiquarian book stores, but it's really the only way to enjoy the book as it was intended to be read. Newer fans of this wonderful decameron will discover additional pleasures, and will drawn into the tale all over again. You also may want to rent or purchase the DVD of the great film version. Director Wojeich Has, noted for his meticulous adaptations, captures all the droll humor and twists in narrative in a way that makes the film a cult classic.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Richard Thurston on May 23, 1998
Format: Paperback
One of my favorite books ever. To describe 'The Manuscript Found at Saragossa' as a novel does not begin to describe the complexity, the richness and the humanity this book contains.
Among a host of themes explored in the volume, it can be read as a meditation on the enlightenment, an introduction to Jewish mysticism or a primer on Euclidean geometry.
The incredible ease with which tales are told from shifting points of view and alternating narrators. The time frame moves seamlessly from past to present, occasionally causing confusion but rewarding the patient reader.
Complicated but well worth the effort. In an age of increasingly personal, neurotic narratives this book reminds one of the importance of the book of ideas.
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61 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Kendall VINE VOICE on April 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
Imagine a book written by Edgar Allen Poe, translated by Edward Fitzgerald, filtered through the consciousness of Jorge Luis Borges, and you would have some inkling of what makes this extraordinary book so special. It is to literature what surrealism is to painting. Potocki, who on the strength of this book alone qualifies as Poland's greatest literary figure, prefigures the postmodern movement with his sleight-of-hand and multi-multi-layered text. A Freudian could spend years investigating the recesses and depths of Potocki's subconscious.
The framing device is a young nobleman's romantic wanderings through a section of Spain that could exist only in the mind of someone who was none too selective about his/her diet, or the kind of herbs they decided to ingest. A grotesque and lurid air suffuses this imaginative tale. The plot, if it could be called such a thing, unfolds like a chinese puzzle, one unreliable narrative nested within another. ...It wends its way into your thoughts like an ear-boring worm. It is the sort of work that Danielewski attempted, rather feebly by comparison, in his novel, House of Leaves. Potocki combines the supernatural with the erotic in a way that is unique in literature. Open the pages of this book and prepare to be disturbed and unsettled at times, but be prepared also to engage in a long, strange, diverting trip.
By the way there is a CD of a movie version of Manuscript which was made in Europe in the 60s. Apparently it has been shown periodically in San Francisco art houses, and was appreciated by Jerry Garcia, among others. If the movie even approximates the book, I could understand why.
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