- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 3 hours and 48 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Recorded Books
- Audible.com Release Date: January 7, 2005
- Language: English
- ASIN: B0007OB5IA
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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Portuguese Irregular Verbs Audiobook – Unabridged
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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.
While his specialty and achievement are surely somewhat esoteric and of interest mostly to academicians, rather than regular people, the book presents multiple situations in which Dr. von Igelfeld presents his specialty to regular people. As per the title of the book; the good `Doktor' presents a lecture on "Sausage Dogs" or as we know them better, "Dachshunds," in an attempt to get American recognition. Interestingly, he thought he was to speak on "Portuguese Irregular Verbs" but with a little last minute adjustment, the Professor does in fact give a lecture on "Sausage Dogs."
In the book, it is the interrelation of this "Ivory Tower" mindset and the more mundane mindset of people outside this environment that McCall Smith concentrates on illustrating. He keenly shows the reader the almost `back-biting' environment internal to academic life, and then, more specifically and graphically, shows us the way in which one of these academics relates, or fails to relate, to normal people in a world outside of academia. As can be expected, this combination results in some extremely amusing outcomes.
Smith is in good form in this book, although it is not one of his best. Nonetheless, devotees of the Alexander McCall Smith multiple scenarios and other works, will find this book quite in line with the McCall Smith they have grown to know and love.