- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: The Editorium (April 28, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1434102475
- ISBN-13: 978-1434102478
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,762,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Jurgen Paperback – April 28, 2009
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About the Author
Cabell is best known for his tales of the imaginary land of Poictesme, where chivalry and galantry live on.
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
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Top customer reviews
The tale tells of Jurgen, a middle-aged medieval pawnbroker who inadvertently speaks well of the Devil, and is hence rewarded with a fantasy journey that puts him in intimacy with a wide variety of great beauties of the past in worlds of Cabell's learned imagination. The running joke is that Jurgen can get away with nearly everything if he properly observes the appearance of the middle-class proprieties. Of course, in the end he finds that even the intense fantasy of Helen of Troy cannot equal the humble reality of his own home and hearth, to which he begs to return.
The language is wonderful, and quite a few of the japes are still roaringly funny. This may be the best place to begin reading Cabell, one of the 20th century's under-appreciated important writers. But I think that some of his other fantasies, such as "The High Place" and "Figures of Earth" cut much deeper. So does his non-fantasy novel, "The RIvet in Grandfather's Neck."
Jurgen is not cheap victorian porn as at least one reviewer has suggested. It is a vicious and brutal attack on the prudish and hypocrtical criticism that are as much a reality today as they were in Cabell's day. The brutal kingdom of Philistia destroys as much "evil" today as it did in Jurgen's novel.
A clue to entering Cabell's world here is his return to the garden between dawn and sunrise, where Jrgen starts his second journey through life. This dream of returning to reclaim the beauties and adventures of youth and to get a second chance may be common to all men or just to the lucky few. It was a time when the objects of our desire were not quite as beautiful as they seemed and when even our greatest adventures were not quite as great or as adventurous as they seemed then. Going back allows us to view them from the perspective of age and time, and if we have become wise, to sort them out.
Cabell ended another book (The Devil's Only Son) with one charater observing that "dreams are the disease of youth; growing up is being cured of them." Enjoy reading Jurgen. Enjoy returning to the dreams of youth. Join Cabell in the sadness that comes not from the fact that we are no longer young, but from the realization that these were just dreams. . .
He also was briefly notorious due to a ridiculous obscenity trial about his books, which actually are almost timid and not at all prurient. Cabell prevailed in the case and the censors ended up looking foolish, as indeed they were.
Jurgen is perhaps one of Cabell's best and most famous.
The story line is about an elderly pawnbroker who is able to revisit his past life. He hopes to make amends and correct past mistakes, but ends up pretty much doing the same things twice.
The book is clever, amusing, and yet has a serious message underneath and a bit of melancholy about past mistakes.
In one amusing scene Jurgen revisits the moment at which a young noble asked to dance with the girl that Jurgen loved, and then later stole her affections from Jurgen.
In the second round of this moment, Jurgen challenges the young man to a duel instead of letting him dance with the girl. Unfortunately for Jurgen the young man is a much better sword fighter so Jurgen has make an embarrassing escape through the shrubs and loses the girl the second time too.
This is a book I've read several times and still have on my shelf.
Incidentally sets of autographed first editions of Cabell's work are available in several book stores and from private collectors. I bought the 18-volume Storisende collection with Cabell's autograph for only $50 from an estate sale. A good bargain.
The angst was all about some very coy and sophisticated double-entendres which would have gone over the heads of most readers in any era.
All the commotion at least brought some attention to this witty and entertaining fantasy. Cabell wrote many more books in the same vein and, perhaps, began to repeat himself. But here his ideas and voice are fresh and new.
It's not for everyone, but if you're the sort who enjoys the elegant wordplay and fantastical mannerisms of writers like Nabokov or Italo Calavino, you might want to give it a try.
And, hey, in this edition, it's free.
-- J.C. Legere