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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Weird and Wonderful
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...
Published on 30 Nov. 2002 by Bruce Kendall

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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
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. The setting is early 1730s Spain and embraces themes of romanticism, religion (Muslim/Christian/Pagan) and ghost stories. The main character is Alphonse who starts off detailing his journey into the backlands and has 66...
Published on 13 May 2011 by H. Tee


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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Weird and Wonderful, 30 Nov. 2002
By 
Bruce Kendall "BEK" (Southern Pines, NC) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Manuscript Found in Saragossa (Penguin Classics) (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Labyrinthine Secrets & Marvels of the Venta Quemada, 28 May 2008
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This review is from: The Manuscript Found in Saragossa (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
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. It's a book to immerse oneself in, to plunge into and travel with the protagonist through the demon-haunted landscapes of the Sierra Morena. There are many hints of esoteric and alchemical arcana, but analysis of such recondite elements need not interrupt the reader's sheer enjoyment of Potocki's marvellous and intricately constructed narratives within narratives. Such a tour-de-force, for all its inevitable unevenneses, is actually sustained pretty skilfully throughout and overall succeeds triumphantly, not least in that it transports the reader, as if he or she had indeed quaffed from Zubeida's emerald chalice, into the vivd and rich atmospheres of Old Spain in the 1700s, replete with romantic intrigues, courtly manners and picaresque adventures, shot through with encounters with unearthly and supernatural potencies. This review, in its brevity, can but give a mere glimpse of the delights of Jan Potocki's wondrous and labyrinthine novel which once discovered keeps drawing one back to savour its unusual pleasures and droll amusements. A literary classic of romantic gothicism and a high point of 19th century European literature.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars lose yourself, 24 May 2014
By 
tallmanbaby (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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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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5.0 out of 5 stars Marvellous book - in all senses of the word "marvellous", 29 Mar. 2014
By 
M. Forster (HORSHAM, West Sussex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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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 supernatural, mathematics, a centuries-old conspiracy, together with a huge array of characters, then you will love it. Some reviewers have compared this to the "Arabian Nights" and other frame-tales, and it certainly appears at first sight to fit into that mold. But it differs from them in one vital aspect - you discover in the end that all the stories are not just random tales, but each has its part to play in one overall story.

It's a good idea to get the Kindle edition so you can search for previous occurrences of characters when you can't remember who they are.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A treasure!, 8 Feb. 2002
This review is from: The Manuscript Found in Saragossa (Penguin Classics) (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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5.0 out of 5 stars A TALE WITHIN A TALE WITHIN A TALE WITHIN A TALE ..., 29 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: The Manuscript Found in Saragossa (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Stunning - would give it 6 stars if I could.
Romantic, erotic, humourous, horrific, ironic, satiric .. and very Gothic.
No review can really do this book justice, filled as it is with twists, turns, unreliable narrators and an extremely complex narrative structure.
If you're after a work of literature that will really stretch you and demand your concentration, rather than easy-reading pulp fiction (not that there's anything wrong with easy-reading pulp fiction!) then "Saragossa" is very highly recommended.
I read the book before seeing the movie, which is disappointing in comparison (but still worth seeing).
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine translation of an extraordinary work, 13 Dec. 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Manuscript Found in Saragossa (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
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, historical and religious - into the time. Very odd, but highly imaginative.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece, 23 Sept. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Manuscript Found in Saragossa (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Definitely one of the best books ever written - it's funny, erudite, exciting, scary - everything you need.
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not worth the effort, 13 May 2011
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This review is from: The Manuscript Found in Saragossa (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
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. The setting is early 1730s Spain and embraces themes of romanticism, religion (Muslim/Christian/Pagan) and ghost stories. The main character is Alphonse who starts off detailing his journey into the backlands and has 66 chapters (days); he meets hanged brothers, dodgy sisters, ghosts, women/loves, wandering Jew, gypsy leader etc. Each starts their first person tale which invariable introduces a new person who tells their tale - this (honestly) leads to a confusing 5 level first person narrative i.e. who ever is telling is `I' throughout the entire text. The text even has an interim character telling us `they are losing the thread' of who's talking - this is ironic and apt. To compensate the Penguin version does have a good introduction, character list and the pages enclosing their stories - I did wonder if the whole book might have benefited from being edited to be just each person's story in sequence.

This book has been compared to the Decameron and 1000 & 1 Nights; and described as gothic, picaresque, adventurous, erotic. Whatever the good qualities of these descriptions may be in summarising this novel, this novel is not as good as you may think - it is long 630 small font pages, completely unmemorable, disjointed, difficult, unimaginative and (oh dear another review where I resort to the word) boring - I nearly again gave up and at the end remember nothing about the stories. When you start to lose family connections, histories and names (as I did) the stories lose meaning and impact; I wondered why I bothered. I can imagine if you owned one book, were prepared to re-read and track characters (circa 1820s) and had low imagination then this would be a worthy purchase/read. However after 3 weeks of reading, this is not a good story, lacking character development, design, challenge or readability. I'd suggest reading the first 30 pages and the last 30 pages and the Gypsy leaders story and you've got 90% of the value of this book - just because I've spent the time reading every word I'm not afraid to be honest - not worth the effort.
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5.0 out of 5 stars High-end hokum, classy genre, 4 April 2015
Quite a yarn! The Arabian Nights transposed to Europe, Hammer horror meets Errol Flynn. I wonder what the French for swashbuckling (p50) is?
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The Manuscript Found in Saragossa (Penguin Classics)
The Manuscript Found in Saragossa (Penguin Classics) by Jan Potocki (Paperback - 7 Mar. 1996)
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