Continued from HERE.
MY REAL-TIME REVIEW OF JACQUES THE FATALIST (1796) by Denis Diderot CONTINUES BELOW IN THE ‘COMMENTS’ TO THIS POST AS AND WHEN I READ EACH SECTION OF THE WORK.
And after those competing tales between Jacques and the landlady….
“There are two versions of what happened after he’d put the lights out. Some state that he began feeling his way round the walls but could not locate his bed, and that he said: ‘By God, it’s gone, or if it’s still there it’s written on high that I shan’t find it. Either way, I’ll have to do without,’ and thereupon he decided to stretch out on a couple of chairs. According to others, it was written on high that his legs would get entangled in the chairs, that he would fall over and lie where he fell. Of these two versions, you can take your time, tomorrow or the day after, to choose the one you like best.
Next morning our two travellers, who had gone to bed late and rather the worse for drink, slept late, Jacques either on the floor or on two chairs according to the version you preferred, and his Master rather more comfortably in his bed. The landlady came up to let them know that the day would not be fine and that, were they minded to be on their way, they would be risking their lives and in any case they would be stopped by the swollen waters of the little river they had to cross. She said that several mounted travellers who had chosen not to take her word for it had been forced to turn back. The Master said to Jacques: ‘Jacques, what’ll we do?’ and Jacques replied: ‘First we’ll have some lunch with our landlady. That might give us some ideas.’ The landlady said that this was a very sensible decision. Victuals were brought. The landlady was only too delighted to have an opportunity to enjoy herself, Jacques’s Master was ready to join in, but Jacques began to feel unwell. He toyed with his food, drank little, and said nothing.
This latter symptom was particularly irritating. It was the effect of the bad night he’d spent and the uncomfortable bed he’d spent it on. He complained of pains in his arms and legs, and his hoarse voice indicated the onset of a sore throat. His Master advised him to go back to bed but he wouldn’t. The landlady offered to make him a bowl of onion soup. He asked for a fire to be laid in the room, for he felt shivery, wanted a pot of herb tea to be made and a bottle of white wine to be brought up, which was all seen to immediately.
The landlady takes herself off, leaving Jacques alone with his Master.”
Pages 138 – 147
I still have a conviction that I was fated to skip those earlier pages, as if this novel is even more experimental than I first inferred, whereby Fate controls the text with the very pen-nib of the writer magicking forward into the modern print of a book from 200 + years in its future. Paradoxically this may only work with paper text, rather than the sporadically electronic convulsions of ebook discontinuity. Paper to paper, ink to ink, language to language, by logical physical channels in translations of Whovian contiguity. And in this short section, appropriately, we have a touching scene where the Master and his Servant Jacques, during the latter’s resumption of the tale of his love life, fall out but then, by Fate’s judgement in the embodied form of the well-bosomed landlady, fall back in with each other, where being served and serving are inversely balanced or mutually synergistic … like reader and author, too. Over the centuries by the miracle of literature.
I was also pleased to discover in this section that white wine is good for me!
Pages 147 – 163
Dogs as underlings in some universal pecking order and public executions provide some disconnected topics here. And pictures for the Master being “word pictures” with a pen or pencil rather than a paintbrush, I guess. The latter seems later to elicit the word “elogious” and this book’s use of this word is the first I have ever encountered, I’m sure. This seems to radiate back somewhat to my above reference to the physical translation, through time, of language or text (skipping or adding, Whovian or not)… There is also a turn of phrase in this section that sticks out like a sore thumb involving being called an “old shit”.
Meanwhile, as a result of this section in this book, I have started to brush up on Spinoza and I wonder if Diderot (or his narrator) may not be a Plura-Monist rather than simply a Monist (the concept first raised by me in connection with my recent real-time review of ‘The Magic Mountain’ by Thomas Mann here). Meanwhile again, there is yet another interruption of Jacques’ tale about his love-life with a co-traveller’s tale of some saucy pranks regarding some monks, whose Abbot is into austerity and was pre-Thatcher, the latter seeming, since her very recent death, to raise her post-retrocausal head quite often in my reviews.
“It was his view that if we had a clear sight of the chain of causes and effects which shape a man’s life from the moment he is born until his dying day, we would be convinced that everything he had done was what he had no choice but to do. […] His Captain had stuffed Jacques’s head with his opinions which he had got from Spinoza,…[…] …he [Jacques] was a good man , candid, honest, brave, loyal, faithful, very obstinate, even more loquacious, and no less vexed than you and I to discover that he had embarked upon the story of his loves with almost no hope of ever finishing it. […] In any case, I can see poor Jacques now, with a large scarf wound round his neck…”
Pages 163 – 184
“It’s very queer business, you know. People are always going on morning, noon and night about how terrible life is, but they can’t bring themselves to put an end to it.”
After Jacques thus broaches my earlier Fatalism / (Anti-)Natalism thread in the weave of this book’s gestalt, he proceeds with no further delay to relate tales of his love-life (I hope that is not a spoiler!) – and these border on the highly salacious, with tinges of Moll Flanders, Tom Jones, even Fanny Hill, much to the inferred vicarious voyeurism of the Master to whom these tales are told. And the strait-laced reader is also told these tales, including how Jacques did not actually LOSE his virginity but recurrently SWAPPED it!
One of these tales feature a daughter of a wheelwright called BUGER. Much talk of this name ensues. Maybe he made the wheels on that dogcart image above.
“Each moment has its own value.” And like a child we obstinately stick with A instead of being led on to reveal that we know that B comes next. I still keep my powder dry.
Pages 184 – 212
“If you are pure in heart, you will not read my book; if you are depraved, you will not be affected by reading me.”
Thus, the author has pre-empted my concerns over the salaciousness explained above, and it even prints on the page the full text of the F word as part of his argument. And in fact he comes clean about the ‘dog’s breakfast’ that I mentioned as being printed on the back cover about the book-to-which-it-is-a-back-cover and this expression comes from this very passage INSIDE the book. This leads later to discussion on the Theory of Literature and the Art of the Novel, i.e. coincidences, contrivances of neat come-uppance, a praise of Richardson as a novelist, and my own apparent need (as ‘written on high’) now to skip some more pages as the Master takes over from Jacques by telling his own glottal-stop of a tale which set me yawning not hiccoughing, and I sense that by NOT reading the WHOLE of this novel, I will not become trapped by its inevitable fate of trapping me had I read it all word by word. But it does allow me to feel, for the first time, that my mettle as the world’s only ‘gestalt real-time reviewer’ is being fully tested by this work: “After several dotted lines indicating that there is a gap in the text, we read: ‘There is no sadder fate in all the world than to be stupid.’ Was it Jacques who proffered this thought? Or was it his Master? It could make the subject of a protracted and prickly debate.” Meanwhile, why did the Master have to commence his own tale when Jacques was still telling his salacious tales about his own love-life? Because Jacques had suddenly protracted a ‘sore throat’, which perhaps brings us back to reverberations of that earlier draw-string. And that, in turn, seems connected with Jacques’ drinking ‘gourd’ that turns out to be his own scrying-device or crystal ball through which Destiny talks to him (relating to those earlier premonitions and divinations (and Astrological Harmonics?)): “I omitted to mention, dear Reader, that Jacques never went anywhere without a wicker-covered flask of good stuff, which he called his gourd and kept hanging from the pommel of his saddle.” My underlining.
Pages 212 – 240
More stopping and starting of the story-telling by Jacques and his Master of their respective Fates makes me think, without real evidence, that they are one and the same person at the cross-section of these machinations of love – didn’t the Master know Denise earlier? Isn’t Denise the name of my own wife (who created that exquisite whizz-bang quilt shown above of mauves and purples)? No spoilers will be issued here, though. As this wonderful book itself says, if you think any story is unfinished, you are probably clever enough to finish it to your own satisfaction. [Mine is bespoke – in that Jacques’ sore throat came back and he was sent to Hans Castorp’s Sanatorium in Switzerland to while away the rest of his days awaiting death’s Ligottian knot: with gourd and thermometer to hand, and slowly removing the beauty-spot patch from his cheek.]
Meanwhile, please re-order my quotes from this last section of ‘Jacques Le Fataliste’ (shown below), i.e. as you deem to be their order ‘written on high’:.
“You’ll break your neck if you ride like that.”
“I have this awful feeling that my story will not get finished, that it’s a tale that’ll bring us bad luck, and that the minute I start up again I shall be interrupted by some disaster which might turn out well or badly.”
“And that was the string you attached to my head to make me dance to your tune?”
“I can’t do it. I can’t go on. As I speak I seem to sense the hand of Destiny reaching for my throat and can feel it tightening its grip. For the love of God, sir, say I can stop.”
“My Captain also used to say that exercising a freedom without the prompting of some motive is the true hallmark of a maniac.”
“Master: Nature never made anything that was useless or unnecessary.
Jacques: I quite believe it, for if a thing is then it had to be.” Like this novel.
“I skip all the character descriptions.”
PS: The two greatest influences on JACQUES THE FATALIST by Denis Diderot are, without question, the work of Rhys Hughes and Sterne’s TRISTRAM SHANDY, one influence retrocausal, the other not. I finished my RTR of this book yesterday above.
RTRcausal, the new buzz word?
My new review of Tristram Shandy: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2014/03/15/tristram-shandy/
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