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Portuguese Irregular Verbs (Professor Dr von Igelfeld Series) Paperback – Illustrated, December 28, 2004
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From the Back Cover
In Portuguese Irregular Verbs, Professor Dr von Igelfeld learns to play tennis, and forces a college chum to enter into a duel that results in a nipped nose. He also takes a field trip to Ireland where he becomes acquainted with the rich world of archaic Irishisms, and he develops an aching infatuation with a Dentist fatale. Along the way, he takes two ill-fated Italian sojourns, the first merely uncomfortable, the second definitely dangerous.
- Item Weight : 4 ounces
- Paperback : 128 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9781400077083
- Dimensions : 5.2 x 0.4 x 8 inches
- ISBN-13 : 978-1400077083
- Publisher : Anchor; Illustrated edition (December 28, 2004)
- ASIN : 1400077087
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #367,812 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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"'I couldn't have hoped for a better start to my career,' he confided in Prinzel. 'Vogelsang knows more about past anterior verbs in Early Irish than anybody else in the world.'"
We are given accounts, too, of the very moment when the idea of writing about Portuguese irregular verbs came to Igelfeld, and of his ill-fated near courtship of a certain lady dentist. Von Igelfeld travels to Ireland and Zürick, Siena and Venice and India in these stories. He meets a holy man and (maybe) a murderer, gets a tooth pulled, and provokes a sword fight. Throughout von Igelfeld is characteristically self-important and endearingly out of touch:
"Von Igelfeld sat down in the reception room and picked up the first magazine he saw on the table before him. He paged through it, noticing the pictures of food and clothes. How strange, he thought--what sort of Zeitschrift is this? Do people really read about these matters? He turned a page and began to read something called the Timely Help column. Readers wrote in and asked advice over their problems. Von Igelfeld's eyes opened wide. Did people discuss such things in open print?"
Some of the stories included in the book are better than others. In the most poignant of them ("Portuguese Irregular Verbs") Igelfeld attempts to beef up sales of his monograph to save it from being sold off by shelf foot. His quest for readers leads Igelfeld for the first time to the home of his colleague and nemesis, Professor Dr Detlev Amadeus Unterholzer. The visit is initially infuriating:
"Von Igelfeld peered at the plate above the bell and drew in his breath sharply. Professor Dr Dr D-A. von Unterholzer. What extraordinary, bare-faced cheek! It was little short of an outrage, on three counts, no less. Firstly, Unterholzer did not have two doctorates; there was no doubt about that. Secondly, what was all this nonsense about the hyphen between Detlev and Amadeus? Amadeus was his second name, as the whole world knew, not part of his first. And finally, and perhaps most seriously of all, there was the von. Von Igelfeld felt the anger surge up within him. If people got away with adding vons to their names whenever the mood took them, then that immeasurably reduced the significance of the real vons."
But after a moving discovery while browsing Unterholzer's bookshelves, von Igelfeld finds himself warming to the man.
Alexander McCall Smith is a charming writer, and von Igelfeld a delightful character--pretentious and jealous and deeply flawed, but ultimately capable of goodness. The Igelfeld stories are delicious, quiet reads. It's unfortunate that there aren't more of them.
Debra Hamel -- author of Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece (Yale University Press, 2003)
A professor of Romance Philology, Dr. von Igelfeld sees himself as a great academician in the present day world. Yet his field is so narrow and so esoteric, that there are few who really have interest in it. Yet, the good Dr. writes the definitive book on Portuguese Irregular Verbs, and thereby; has earned a place in immortal history: or so he would see it.
The book is extremely amusing and entertaining as McCall Smith takes us through the ill fated travails of the Good Professor Dr. von Igelfeld. The Dr. is always trying to do the "societal correct" thing. Yet he often manages to botch that effort rather enormously. Of great interest is McCall Smith's last chapter, called "A Death In Venice." And the chapter is a direct and unobscured reference to Thomas Mann's story of the same name.
The chapter is unusual, and brings all types of questions to mind about Prof. Dr. von Igelfeld, not least of which is whether he has a personal sexual identity crisis. Mann's story was about latent homosexuality, and that precise topic is eluded to, in a very unusual manner. Yet, not unlike Mann's story, the allusions are very subtle.
The book is recommended for all McCall Smith readers. The Series is greatly amusing and shows what can happen when people take themselves just a little bit too seriously.
Top reviews from other countries
If you are looking for excitement, sex or violence, look somewhere else. If you wish to be gently entertained and to read quality English prose, this is the book for you.