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To the Hermitage [Paperback]

Malcolm Bradbury
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

13 Sep 2012

To the Hermitage tells two stories. The first is of the narrator, a novelist, on a trip to Stockholm and Russia for an academic seminar called the Diderot Project. The second takes place two hundred years earlier and recreates the journey the French philosopher Denis Diderot made to Russia at the invitation of Catherine the Great, a woman whose influence could change the path of history . . .

Malcolm Bradbury’s last novel is rich with his satirical wit, but it is also deeply personal and weaves a wonderfully wry self-portrait.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (13 Sep 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1447222849
  • ISBN-13: 978-1447222842
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 13 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 214,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

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.

Review

'Charming, engaging, witty, amusing, playful and reflective' Edward Docx

‘The funniest book ever written’ Auberon Waugh

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five star historical entertainment 10 April 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I absolutely LOVED this book and couldn't put it down. A mixture of fiction and history, it intertwines parallel stories set in modern day St Petersburg and the St Petersburg of Catherine The Great. In several places I found myself laughing out loud. Having been to the Hermitage museum and also having studied the period of history, it probably made the book more relevant to me, but such knowledge isn't necessary for enjoyment. I would recommend this excellent piece of literature to anyone. Read & enjoy !!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A big canvas and a big smile 5 Feb 2001
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Broad in its scope, supremely well-written, immensely erudite and full of witty and thought-provoking observations, To the Hermitage brings together many of the strands found in Bradbury's earlier novels such as The History Man, Rates of Exchange and Doctor Criminale. In this book, we are presented with two parallel tales told in alternating chapters, both concerning the life and thought of the French Enlightenment philosopher, Denis Diderot. One relates the brief journey of an odd assortment of contemporary pilgrims from Stockholm to Saint Petersburg under the pretext of researching the 'Diderot Project'. The other recounts an impression of Diderot's own short, but eventful, sojourn to the Court of Catherine the Great. In the course of these stories, we are presented with the full range of the author's intellectual interests and his creative craft. There are musings on the nature of history, politics, literature and philosophy intermingled with knockabout farce, sexual high-jinks and tongue-in-cheek satire about academic life. This book makes you think and makes you laugh. It is a fitting finale to this author's distinguished career as a writer of highly entertaining fiction.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars i love deconstruction! 20 Jan 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Malcolm Bradbury's novel, To the Hermitage deliberately binds together different ways of writing to be self-consciously postmodern. He's writing against the totalising concept of Enlightenment Reason, hence the fragmentary nature of the novel, and manages to do so in a highly entertaining way.
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.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars To Russia with reason 11 Mar 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
One of the outstanding figures of the Enlightenment in France, Denis Diderot compiled the famous Encyclopedia. Malcolm Bradbury's book is also encyclopedic in approach, being a hotchpotch - very much in the spirit of Diderot, actually - of historical anecdotes, tableaux, and light-hearted observations of the world. The 'novel' - which it is not, really - seems unable to decide what it is doing, and the constant switch between the account of Diderot's visit to Russia in 1773, and the current odyssey of a bunch of, mainly Swedish, academics across the Baltic, is of doubtful significance. Some of Bradbury's travelogue humour is amusing, though, and the Swedish penchant for earnestness is keenly drawn.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for pseudo-philosophers... 30 April 2001
Format:Paperback
This is Bradbury's exit piece, an erudite and hugely compelling account of Denis Diderot's courtship to Catherine the Great. The story cleverly switches between 'then' and 'now' as we follow a parallel journey by a band of Diderot enthusiasts and baffled artistes to St. Petersburg. Bradbury's admiration for Diderot (and indeed his contemporaries such as Voltaire) is evident throughout and by the end you find yourself treated to an enjoyable tale as well as a brief course in the philosophies of the pre-revolutionary Age of Reason. This is the late Bradbury's fine complement to Posterity.
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Format:Paperback
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. A Cock And Bull Story... and how much of Michael Nyman's music for The Draughtsman's Contract was incorporated... crikey... is this postmodern enough?
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