- Paperback: 512 pages
- Publisher: Picador (2 Mar. 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0330486209
- ISBN-13: 978-0330486200
- Product Dimensions: 11.4 x 2.5 x 17.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 631,103 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
To the Hermitage Paperback – 2 Mar 2001
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To The Hermitage is Sir Malcolm Bradbury's first novel in nearly a decade, and its length and ambition provide some clue as to why it has been so long in the making. The novel begins with the arrival of the great Enlightenment philosopher Denis Diderot at the Russian court of Catherine the Great, who is "drawn to grand ideas and learning; she looks to Paris" and to Denis Diderot, busily completing his Encyclopaedia, the great work of the European "Age of Reason". Bradbury's world of "Then" suddenly cuts to "Now", and the arrival in Stockholm in 1993 of the narrator, a thinly veiled self-portrait of a weather-beaten novelist and literary critic who has been invited on a "Baltic junket", an academic gathering to discuss the Diderot Project, a Swedish-funded enterprise to investigate the life and works of the great philosopher. Bradbury extracts maximum hilarity from the ensuing academic pondering of the assembled scholars, including the wonderful deconstructionist professor "Jack-Paul Verso, in Calvin Klein jeans, Armani jacket, and a designer baseball cap saying I LOVE DECONSTRUCTION". The group's academic sparring takes on added poignancy as footage of the hardline coup to overthrow Gorbachev and silence Yeltsin flashes onto their TV screens.
Bradbury's novel proceeds to deftly seesaw between the Age of Reason championed by Diderot and the present so-called end of history and "triumph" of global capitalism. It ruefully, but also very humorously reflects on the perils of intellectual idealism then and now, and explores the ways in which "history is the lies the present tells in order to make sense of the past". Sprawling, messy, hugely ambitious and at times very funny, To The Hermitage is up there with Eating People is Wrong and Rates of Exchange as one of Bradbury's better pieces of fiction. --Jerry Brotton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'Charming, engaging, witty, amusing, playful and reflective' Edward Docx
‘The funniest book ever written’ Auberon Waugh --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The story is an interesting and lively read, working on many different levels. The story of the narrator going to Russia in the Diderot project, is nicely interwoven with the tale of Diderot (then). This break in the narrative is deliberately postmodern, and does little to disrupt the story.
Intertextuality is a strong theme in the novel, 'books breed books', and Roland Barthes' 'death of the author', are a main feature, with a little Foucault thrown in for good measure. Again, this doesn't disrupt the entertaining aspect of the novel, but adds to it. Both tales are engaging, and there are many funny moments, as well as some poignant ones too.
Even if you aren't a fan of postmodernism, there should be enough here to entertain, as well as to make you think.
This is clearly a brilliant and scholarly book which needs time and thought to appreciate the references and nuances which abound in it. It is not a quick read which is what I wanted before a visit to St Petersburg and that is the reason I have not given it a higher number of stars. It would make an ideal book to study in a literary group.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Long-winded at times... However, it was really wonderful to see the connections between Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy and Diderot... plus the film version of Shandy, i.e. Read morePublished 18 months ago by G. D. Busby
Bought for my husband. Both of us read the book many years ago, and decided we wanted to read it again.Published on 15 July 2010 by Frogs 2110
Like much of Bradbury's humour,this has a strongly pretentious streak to it,particularly in the modern juxtaposition of the academics' cruise through the Baltic. Read morePublished on 31 Oct. 2001