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Jurgen Paperback – June 1, 1977

4.8 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews
Book 11 of 17 in the Saga of Poictesme Series

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Cabell is best known for his tales of the imaginary land of Poictesme, where chivalry and galantry live on. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From AudioFile

Rarely in this age of action figures and product tie-ins does one come across a work as boldly and unapologetically erudite, urbane, and steeped in folklore, mythology, and literature as this early fantasy classic. Written in 1919 by James Branch Cabell, JURGEN employs chivalry, philosophy, mild eroticism, humor, and high poetic prose to celebrate man's desire for the perfect mate. Think Shakespeare crossed with Philip Roth. This production is just as unapologetically smart and urbane as the book. JURGEN's vocabulary is enormous, and John Rubinstein gives a fine, clear reading as the hero, while Melissa Greenspan, Ann Marie Lee, and Lorna Raver give depth and voices to the many heroines (from Guinevere to Helen of Troy). The entire production is like listening to a banquet of words. B.P. © AudioFile 2002, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 346 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications (June 1, 1977)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486235076
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486235073
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,417,856 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David Rolfe on May 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
"I have finished Jurgen; a great and beautiful book, and the saddest book I ever read. I don't know why, exactly. The book hurts me -- tears me to small pieces -- but somehow it sets me free. It says the word that I've been trying to pronounce for so long. It tells me everything I am, and have been, and may be, unsparingly...I don't know why I cry over it so much. It's too -- something-or-other -- to stand. I've been sitting here tonight, reading it aloud, with the tears streaming down my face..." -- Deems Taylor, in a letter dated December 12, 1920.

What can I add to that? Jurgen is on my short list of very favorite books. It wrestles, in its odd way, with the fundamental tragedy of human life in general and male life in particular: We are doomed to age and die; meanwhile happiness will prove elusive. Wow, I'm making this sound awfully depressing, aren't I? But that's not right. Jurgen is humorous and fun and weirdly uplifting. Jurgen's strange adventures manage to represent all that a man may pursue and aspire to. The tale burns, but in a wonderfully brilliant way. (I made that comment about the tragedy of "male life" because Jurgen is, among other things, the quintessential rogue. His notion of how happiness might be ideally pursued differs somewhat from the ideas of the females he holds discourse with. Thus does Cabell illustrate a reality that we can either acknowledge or deny; take your choice. Enlightened people will prefer the latter.)

Jurgen isn't for everyone. Some will "get it" and some won't. I once handed a copy to a person who returned it with the comment that he wasn't a fan of the S&S ("swords & sorcery") genre. This surprised me; the book can only be described as S&S by someone who does not look below the surface. I mention this not to mock but to warn.
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Format: Paperback
I accidentally bumped into this book when I was in my 20s. Had no idea where it would lead me. Read it practically in one sitting. I was amazed that I understood what Cabell was driving at even tho I could not have explained it coherently to anyone.

Next I re-read it in my 50s. I never read books twice. Still amazed by it.

The book was buried in a box, after house moving many times. I re-discovered it last night. Now in my 80s I'm reading it all over again. Amazed as ever.
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By A Customer on February 8, 1998
Format: Paperback
In the 1920s, James Branch Cabell (rhymes with "rabble") was considered by many to be one of the greatest American writers, based on this novel. Tastes changed with the coming of the Great Depression; worse, Cabell never again came close to writing a book of this quality, despite his many attempts. Whether or not Cabell is a great writer (and I incline to the view that writers should be judged by their best rather than their mediocre works), Jurgen is a great book, full of insight and a joy to read. The eponymous protagonist is a middle-aged pawnbroker who is given an opportunity to relive his youth. In his travels he encounters, among others, Guenevere, the Master Philologist, the Philistines, his father's Hell, and his grandmother's Heaven. In the end he has an opportunity to question Koshchei who made all things as they are. I heartily recommend this novel. Although it is in an older fantasy tradition, it is at least as readable and enjoyable as the best contemporary fantasy, and its literary quality is far greater. I have re-read it many times.
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By A Customer on December 28, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Early in his journey, Cabell's Jurgen comes to a place known as 'The Garden Between Dawn and Sunrise.' In the garden live all the imaginary creatures that humankind has ever created: centaurs and sphinxes, fairies, valkyries, and baba-yagas. Jurgen is surprised when he sees his first-love wandering around the garden, but his guide replies "Why, all the women that man has ever loved live here...for very obvious reasons."
Moments like this, simultaneously jaded and genuine, sentimental and cynical, are the most delightful parts of 'Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice.' Nominally the story of a medieval pawnbroker's quest to find his lost wife, 'Jurgen' becomes a bildungsroman in reverse as, on the way, its hero regains his youth and visits the lands of European myth, from Camelot to Cocaigne (the land of pleasure) -- each land shows Jurgen a way of life, and he rejects each in favor of his own sardonic stoicism, for he is, after all, a "monstrously clever fellow."
That phrase describes Cabell as much as it does Jurgen: the author is remarkably erudite, and, like a doting parent hiding easter eggs, drops in-jokes through the book on subjects as far-ranging as troubadour poetry and tantric sex. Cabell corresponded with Aleister Crowley in his day, and, in ours, is an influence on Neil Gaiman ('The Sandman,' 'Neverwhere,' etc.). The book itself caused quite a splash when it became the centerpiece of one of the biggest censorship trials of the early 20th century: something to do with Jurgen's very large *ahem* sword.
Social satire and an idiosyncratic cynicism in the guise of a scholarly romance-fantasy, 'Jurgen' is what would have happened if J.R.R. Tolkien and Dorothy Parker had gotten together to write a book.
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