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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Journey of discovery, 5 Nov 2004
This review is from: A Sentimental Journey (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Even for modern readers, "A Sentimental Journey" (published 1768)is as startlingly innovative as Sterne's celebrated "Tristram Shandy". Sterne's ability to crystallize the minute details of experience - which may be down to a few seconds only - is reminiscent of Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse". Indeed, Woolf admired this book.
This is by no means an easy read. The 18th-century prose is difficult; the book is larded with Frenchisms and Biblical or classical allusions; the complex, slow narrative often requires re-reading. But the rewards are great! It's wise, deeply comical, and incredibly perceptive.
There are several helpful reviews below dealing with the aspect of "sentimentality", and so I will just single out two things which appealed to me:
1. STERNE AND BODY LANGUAGE. Sterne shows an almost 20th-century appreciation of body language. In fact, I believe he may have almost discovered it. His chapter, "The Translation", highlights the importance of being able to interpret subtle physical hints, like a language: "There is not a secret so aiding to the progress of sociality, as to get master of this _shorthand_, and be quick in rendering the several turns of looks and limbs, with all their inflections and delineations, into plain words." How visionary!
2. STERNE AND THE FRENCH. Ever since Shakespeare inserted a scene in "cod French" into "Henry V", actually ever since the Norman Conquest and up to Monty Python and beyond, the English have revelled in mocking the French and their language. His Continental travelling gives Sterne the perfect excuse to do this. At one point he differentiates between "tant pis" (= "never mind" - where there is nothing to be gained) and "tant mieux" (= so much the better - where there IS an advantage). He also has a hilarious section on the grades of French swearing: first "Diable!", then "Peste!" and finally the words that he won't repeat. In all cases, Sterne carefully shows the social niceties of these expressions.
The protagonist, Yorick, has various adventures of lust and feeling with women and other typically travelish things like losing his passport that we can all relate to. He's tender, obscene, learned, funny, companionable, and above all, readable - if tough.
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Initial post: 22 Jul 2013 08:47:28 BDT
Last edited by the author on 22 Jul 2013 08:48:45 BDT
As I recall, the princess's French in Henry V is the real deal - it is Harry's attempts that are (tenderly) mocked. Clearly those boy actors were not uneducated - though what the audience thought we are not told. ('Boo! Subtitles!'?)
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