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The Manuscript Found in Saragossa (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Jan Potocki , Ian MacLean
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
Price: £12.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

7 Mar 1996 Penguin Classics
Alphonse, a young Walloon officer, is travelling to join his regiment in Madrid in 1739. But he soon finds himself mysteriously detained at a highway inn in the strange and varied company of thieves, brigands, cabbalists, noblemen, coquettes and gypsies, whose stories he records over sixty-six days. The resulting manuscript is discovered some forty years later in a sealed casket, from which tales of characters transformed through disguise, magic and illusion, of honour and cowardice, of hauntings and seductions, leap forth to create a vibrant polyphony of human voices. Jan Potocki (1761-1812) used a range of literary styles - gothic, picaresque, adventure, pastoral, erotica - in his novel of stories-within-stories, which, like the Decameron and Tales from the Thousand and One Nights, provides entertainment on an epic scale.

Frequently Bought Together

The Manuscript Found in Saragossa (Penguin Classics) + The Saragossa Manuscript (Restored Edition) - (Mr Bongo Films) (1965) [DVD]
Price For Both: £27.36

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Product details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (7 Mar 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140445803
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140445800
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 194,292 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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At the time of which I speak, the Count of Olivarez had not yet established new settlements in the lowering mountain range of the Sierra Morena, which separates the provinces of Andalusia and La Mancha. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Weird and Wonderful 30 Nov 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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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Borne from the swirling currents of phantasmagoric orientalist conceits, masonic illuminism and the literary romantic gothicism of the 18th century Count Jan Potocki's 'The Manuscript Found at Saragossa' presents the reader with an undeniably beguiling feast of outre entertainments unfolding through the journey and adventures of our hapless hero, the young Walloon officer Alphonse Van Worden who stops at the haunted inn, the Venta Quemada, on his way to take up his military post at Madrid. With Alphonse we plunge into a weird and labyrinthine world of tales nested within tales like an eccentric Chinese puzzle, delectable stories of ghosts, courtesans, skeletons, hermits, brigands, inquisitors, noblemen, Moors, kabbalists, gypsies, smugglers and libertines. We trace the strange narratives and roles of such characters as the demoniac Pacheko, the exasperating yet strangely helpful Don Busqueros who torments the young lover Lope Suarez, the satanic figure of Don Belial with his mephistophelean discourses, the Knight of Toledo and many others for this book truly teems with wonders and mysteries, like a weird mirror or microcosm. And equally delightful is Potocki's symbolic sensibility as he weaves leitmotivs throughout the book, serpents, skulls, the two hanged men and the two beautiful Moorish sisters Emina and Zubeida who veritably haunt the narrator, implore him to convert to Islam and marry them both and give him a strange philtre to quaff from a cup of carven emerald that he may enjoy their charms in the dream-state - only to wake up kissing the rotting face of a cadaver beneath the gallows! Some scholars have suggested that Potocki deliberately wove symbols from the Tarot throughout this novel - along with a plethora of bizarre, ghostly, erotic and grotesque motifs and episodes. Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars lose yourself 24 May 2014
By tallmanbaby TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Kindle Version

I arrived at this book having enjoyed the Polish film, which is a pretty straight version of the opening of the book, with a few of the later elements, and a more mysterious ending. The book itself is massive, larger than a volume of Proust, so it does take a fair bit of determination to finish it.

The other reviews give a flavour of the book, if you enjoy this sort of literary experimentation then this is surprisingly entertaining. There is a rather perversely amusing and titillating air to some of the stories. Stories nest within stories, and with the best will in the world you will be lost by the end. But that is probably the point of it all, to lose yourself in stories within stories. There is a real delight in mystery, heroism and adversity, and the story seldom drags. This is a very generously put together version on Kindle, there are links to all the individual interwoven stories, an admiring introduction and copious footnotes. There really is no better way to enjoy this book than the Kindle version.

Probably not for everyone, but as a one of a kind book by Polish count who killed himself with a bullet fashioned from the knob from a silver sugar bowl, it is engaging amusing and surprisingly easy to read. When I got to the end, I re-read the introduction and was tempted to immerse myself in the book all over again.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A treasure! 8 Feb 2002
Format:Paperback
This book is a real gem! Interlaced stories, all very fascinating, with all the ingredients of good storytelling. The author was among other things a historian, so the book is set in a more or less correct historical context of the late seventeenth/early eighteenth century. Add intriguing stories of love, struggle to get a place in society, and a fair bit of supernatural elements to the basic mix, and you get this book. Don't miss it!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvellous book - in all senses of the word "marvellous"
I think this book possibly requires a certain type of mind to appreciate it. But if you like a mixture of history, love stories, adventure, intrigue, deception, religion, the... Read more
Published 7 months ago by M. Forster
5.0 out of 5 stars A TALE WITHIN A TALE WITHIN A TALE WITHIN A TALE ...
Stunning - would give it 6 stars if I could.
Romantic, erotic, humourous, horrific, ironic, satiric .. and very Gothic. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Paulmak2010
2.0 out of 5 stars Not worth the effort
This is basically a series of short stories written in 1813 in French by the Polish Potocki and to be fair the other reviewers have encapsulated the book. Read more
Published on 13 May 2011 by H. Tee
3.0 out of 5 stars This book is French!
A perfectly good translation but I bought it under the mistaken impression that Potocki had written in Polish. Wrong. Read more
Published on 11 Aug 2006 by Melisande
2.0 out of 5 stars 200 year old gothic horror erotica
'TMFAS' is a picaresque novel set in an apparently haunted Andalusian valley in the mid-eighteenth century. Read more
Published on 24 April 2006 by Depressaholic
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece
Definitely one of the best books ever written - it's funny, erudite, exciting, scary - everything you need.
Published on 23 Sep 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine translation of an extraordinary work
Long forgotten this bizarre picaresque novel of the mid 19th century is worth exploring. Written by a Pole about Spain around 150 years ago it is full of insights - literary,... Read more
Published on 13 Dec 1998
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