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3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 14 March 2006
This charming novel is more of a romp than some of Gide’s other work. A group of scammers known as the Millipede dupe some wealthy people into believing that the real Pope has been kidnapped and replaced with a tame substitute, and that a large amount of money is needed to buy his freedom. One man takes this too much to heart, however, and goes in person to try to find out more information. Coincidentally, however, he is pushed out of a train to his death, thus leading the other dupes into believing even more strongly in the conspiracy.
The motive for the murder is the novel’s true philosophical core: Lafadio Wluiki (pronounced Looki) is an indolent, rather philosophical young man, who takes it into his mind to commit the perfect motiveless murder. The repercussions of this, and his feelings about what he has done, allow Gide to address important philosophical questions about morality and social responsibility.
This shouldn’t make it sound as though the book is dry and wordy. Far from it: Gide takes us on a romp around France and Italy, presenting a diverse and rich variety of characters with subtle shadings of character. Rather than just good or bad, black or white, his characters are richly drawn and act from a variety of complex motives.
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on 19 August 2011
The Vatican Cellars by Nobel Prize winner Andre Gide is an odd and somewhat disorientating tale that attempts too many things at once. In essence there are five loosely related chapters that come together for a conclusion that relies far too heavily on coincidence and pseudo philosophy to ever be entirely satisfactory.

The plot (as such) revolves around an erstwhile Catholic (Julius), his sceptic turned believer brother-in-law (Anthime), a step brother (Lafcadio) and a somewhat ridiculous plot about a false pope. Although written in the early twentieth century, the style is much more reminiscent of a late eighteenth-century French romp - characters are introduced at a dizzying rate and discarded almost immediately before re-surfacing much later on to fulfill a tiny plot development. There is a lot of soul wrenching and trepidation in the face of religion and social conformity. Whilst Gide certainly deserves credit for writing in a consistent manner and emulating the epics of a similar nature, the fact is that, at just a shade over 200 pages, this book is not epic enough to let the rhythm settle down and develop into a more enjoyable read. The introduction to my copy stated that the book was "The Da Vinci Code" of its time. Whilst I would rather chop off my own legs than be subjected to another sentence of Dan Brown's bungled prose, he at least allowed his book to breathe and develop at a logical pace.

In short this text is well written but suffers from being neither one thing nor the other. Posted somewhere between the Three Musketeers, The Monk and the aforementioned Tom Hanks vehicle - it is ultimately the schizophrenic offspring of all three - interesting but you don't want to spend too much time with it.

Style: 7/10

Structure: 5/10

Originality: 5/10

Depth: 4/10

Unputdownability: 5/10
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Published last year this is a new translation of this novel by Julian Evans and brought to us by Gallic Books. Andre Gide did not have much success with this on first publication, and considering the period it is relatively easy to see why, and also perhaps it was a bit too modern, a bit before its time. Reading it nowadays we can see why this caused controversy, but since then we have seen far greater controversies caused with books.

Gide himself did not call this a novel as such, but a sotie, which is a French satirical play popular in the latter part of the Middle Ages. There is certainly an element of that here with the satire, but also we have farce and of course allegory as well. Taking in mainly members of one family, in-laws and an illegitimate offspring and such like there is also a con here, wherein the Pope has supposedly been replaced by an imposter as part of a cunning plan by the Freemasons. Apparently the con itself was not created by Gide but was used in the 1890s by a group of con artists to gain monies from the gullible.

As we follow this tale there is a lot of comedy not least from the beginning when one family member, also a Freemason and atheist is converted due to a vision. We see here how people can be gullible and especially those with a religious bent, after all we only have to look at the US and see how so many people give generously to so called ministers who are really just grifters.

Gide kicked up a bit of a storm with this, and probably that was more what he intended than anything else, although it was possibly taken the wrong way by many at the time, as there are so many subtleties and sub-texts here. I readily admit that this won’t be for everyone but it is still an entertaining read that will make you ponder once you have finished it. It is also well worth reading Julian Evans’ afterword here as it is interesting and informative, and does remind us as well that some words in French can have different meanings.

I was kindly provided with a review copy of this by the publisher via NetGalley.
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on 8 October 2013
When word gets out that the true Pope has been abducted and an imposter put in his place at the Vatican, a number of devout Catholics leap to his defense - with darkly hilarious results.

This wicked satire is not only brilliantly funny but written with style and elegance. It is also quite outrageous, with a cast of larger than life eccentric characters.

As the scam is revealed, so too is the hypocrisy of the villains and their devout dupes.

If you are of a devout disposition, then you might think twice about reading this darkly subversive book. Me? Well I loved it!
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I just didn’t get this book. Considering that the author is held in such high esteem, and is indeed a Nobel Laureate, I’m quite willing to accept that it’s my intellect and not the book that’s at fault, but I found nothing in it to entertain or engage me. It’s a farcical and picaresque tale which wanders through Europe with a motley collection of characters, none of whom seemed in any way likeable or indeed credible to me, who are involved in an absurd plot to rescue the Pope who has apparently been kidnapped, his place taken by a Freemason. I hazard a guess that its themes are morality, crime and punishment, free will and the gratuitous act but I really couldn’t be bothered to find out.
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on 24 June 2014
The Pope has been imprisoned in the cellars of the Vatican. An imposer has been put in his place so that no one realises and the plot is set for The Millipede to do their worst.

Vatican Cellars is a re-print of a novel first published in 1989 although Andre Gide is a well established author long before this time. The tale travels through quite nicely, the language is engrossing and in some parts illustrative enough, in some parts, to have you stood on the sidelines watching things happen. There are a reasonable amount of different characters in the book, but generally you can remember who they are and the part they are playing, however there are one or two who are so "wet" they become extremely irritating.

The book is gentle enough to be read in a couple of days. I wouldnt recommend people to rush out and buy it on its own merits, but as part of a deal it is worth picking up.
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on 25 September 2009
The previous reviewer ("Paul") encapsulates the plot of 'The Vatican Cellars' beautifully. So I won't add to it, except to benignly point out that he has mis-spelt Lafcadio Wluiki's name. Gide's renown has perhaps faded at a time when the advocacy of homosexuality and attacks on the Catholic church have become mundane currency; and if they were the mainspring of his works this would be understandable. But they are not. Straightforwardly written, charming and accessible (thanks in no small part to Bussey's evergreen, informed translation) he deserves a wider readership. TVC is a curious book because the whimsical treatment is very much at odds with the moral content; but that's arguably why it has remained so consistently in print. With only a nominal regard for 'realism', it's a book written for the joy of writing by a man whose mind was ever-active and ever-honest. Lafcadio Wluiki is a major personality in the literary canon - up there with Sidney Carton or Pechorin or (I suppose) Luke Rhinehart; he embodies what seems to me the book's central enquiry into the empathic basis of morality. How do we know we're not just conning each other? How do we know we're not just conning ourselves? Why have I written such a pompous review, when I'd personally reject any recommendation couched in such language? Maybe I'm hoping to be part of an elite. Maybe I'm hoping that no one else WILL read it...
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on 20 October 2015
A well translated novel. A funny unique story.
Good to have the old stories brought to the fore again.
I was given a digital copy by the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest unbiased review.
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on 24 July 2013
The story seemed slow-moving at first. I took a while to care what happened. The beautiful prose (despite it being a translation), drew me through the first part of the book. The story became wild, exciting, fun.

Natasha Holme
Author of 'Lesbian Crushes and Bulimia: A Diary on How I Acquired my Eating Disorder'
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