Denis Diderot: Jacues le Fataliste et son maître


Make her win so that he could impress her and get her into bed And she has lost her curiosity she is no longer interested She is about to leave oh Wait I ust remembered I must add something to reviewYou Soft Bots - Fuzzy Logic just stare at me with furious eyesThe central story itself is not much it starts in middle and ends in middle The book begins when Jacues and his Master are on aourney from some unrevealed starting point to some unrevealed destination In the end they still haven t reached the destination kind of like Waiting for Godot except that instead of waiting they are walking And like Aesop from one of Jacues anecdotes and also like most of us living our life they end up somewhere other than they plannedWith my references to If on a Winter s Night and Waiting for Godot you can imagine how far ahead of its times the book was It is also the funniest book I have read this yearfuriouslyAre you done with your stupid reviewYesThen finish the storyThe one about girl with chocolaty curly hairpatiently No one about ugly charming managerOkay so my friend was about to leave when this manager tells her something due to which they are still together to date and she is still head over heals in love with him Mutters under his breath and now I will have revenge for not being permitted to finish the chocolaty curly hair girl story oh That girl What did tou sayNothingstill suspicious Go on what he tells her is that how after his graduation he but wait I ust remembered that she had told me this story in confidence I can t give away her secret plus uietly stands up and step backwards towards the door it might affect their marriage You don t want that do you So I will have to take a leave Byeescapes Life is but a series of misunderstandingsTo me navigating life as a mother and teacher and daughter and sister and spouse and friend and neighbour and commuter and grocery shopper and reader and artist on extended sabbatical is a lot about trying to match my own misunderstandings as far as I am aware of them with those of my environment And as that is no easy task I occasionally experience deep pessimism which I cure with Thomas Bernhard s prose Once in recovery mode I switch to DiderotJacues le Fataliste is not only a very funny and witty account of life as it hits us in the face it is also a philosophical ourney towards awareness and acceptance of the absurdities we encounter and create for ourselvesWith Diderot s Jacues and Voltaire s Candide in my pocket I set out to explore the world as a young adult in the ancient remote times of the last decade of a past centurymillennium And as life moves in loops I always end up revisiting the elouence of Enlightenment in times of Ancien R gime intoleranceTo Jacues Exclusive Interview with Denis Diderot Author and PhilosopherReader Can you tell us a little about how this book took shape Mr DiderotDD There s not much to tell All I know is that one day two figures on horseback appeared on the page before me and it soon became clear that the one called Jacues he was definitely a Jacues was the servant of the otherR Were Don uichotte and his servant Sancho Panza an inspiration perhapsDD Who knows what connections there are between what we ve read previously and what we find on the page in front of us It s true that Jacues and his master seemed to go together from the beginning like uichotte and Sancho the one definitely couldn t exist without the otherR Right So you had the two characters What happened next DD Well since they were riding along a road together they found themselves conversing R So you decided to write the story in the form of a dialogueDD One of the characters seemed to like telling stories and as the other seemed to be a good listener and knew how to ask leading uestions a dialogue was inevitable I d sayR Inevitable That s funny in the context of this book But we ll come back to that later Right now I want to ask you about your characters Timbre Composition in Electroacoustic Music (Contemporary Music Review journey You say at the beginning that it wasn t important where they had been or where they were going but you must have had some idea where you wanted them to end upDD Not at all Iust knew there were two characters who seemed to be on a Instruments of Darkness journey I trusted that one or other or both would know where they were going I was as much in the dark as the readerR Hmm Since you ve mentioned the reader can I ask why you digressed so freuently from the story that Jacues was telling his master and started to tell the reader your own stories ones that were completely unrelated to Jacues story so that the book became a series of nested stories a bit in the style of Tristram ShandyDD It s like this I took advantage of the various times that Jacues got interrupted in his story to insert some story ideas I had lying about on my desk And Sterne s book was on my desk too incidentallyR Saying you were taking advantage of the interruptions is surely a bit disingenuous it was you who created those interruptions after allDD Such as when Jacues horse took off across a field That horse had a mind of his own you know Even Jacues couldn t control him and we all know how stubborn Jacues wasR Oh yes I very much enjoyed watching how well Jacues resisted his master s efforts to get him to continue the story of his love life when he didn t feel like talking He really was a very stubborn character But you could have made him continue couldn t you Why didn t you DD As I say he gave me good opportunities to use material I had lying about and hadn t yet found a use forR And then you decided to make Jacues and his master or less switch roles Why did you do that DD Oh well that switch happened after the story telling session in the hostelry and had little to do with me uite a bit to do with la Dive Bouteille I d imagine If the hostel keeper s servant would keep bringing bottles up from the cellar what could I do A good bottle of wine wins over all obstacles R Oh yes didn t Jacues have a very Rabelaisian session in that tavern I noticed that he took advantage of every tiny pause in the hostel keeper s story to order another bottle until he became completely groggified I enjoyed that section a lot and I even kept Jacues company with a glass or two of my own But it did seem to take a long time for the effects of Jacues drinking session to wear off and then when they set out again on theirourney the master had to start telling the story of his own love life instead DD Were you surprised at that R Yes I think I was as I hadn t imagined any past for him at all He was My Uncle Oswald just Jacues master and all I knew about him was that he often consulted his pocket watch and invariably took a pinch of snuff right afterwards But then as he began to tell the story of his relationship with Agathe he began to take shape as a character and I was reminded once again of how much I love stories I became so involved in his adventures that I was frustrated when there were interruptionsust as Jacues was And I even wanted to interrupt the stories myself from time to time with warnings similar to the ones Jacues began to give but I soon learned to stay uiet following Jacues example and The Umbrella Man (Inspector Samuel Tay just hoped the master would overcome his trials without our help And then near the end I felt myself to beust as much the master s dupe as Jacues seemed to be but I got through that bit again by following Jacues example and was reconciled to the outcome But hold on it seems that I ve been rattling on for too long instead of getting you to talk That wasn t how this interview was supposed to go DD Looking at the long scroll of words from the top of this review page down to the bottom I m reminded of Jacues statement about the inevitability of all things in the great scroll of life Toi ui as fait le grand rouleau uel ue tu sois et dont le doigt a trac toute l criture ui est l haut tu as su de tous les temps ce u il me fallait ue ta volont soit faiteR Well played Mr Diderot It seems I ve become trapped in your narrative net ust as Jacues and his master were and I dare say it was inevitable from the beginning how this interview would endDD As Jacues would say It was written in advance. Iderot's fascination with fate and examines the experimental and influential literary techniues that ma.

L beliefs Proceed with caution as this one does biteThis story was a bit of an awakening for me It may be the oldest piece of literature I have read which embraced meta humor to such an extreme As I previously stated I tend to let myself think that this sort of thing is a new ish development a product of information over saturation or something However Jacues the Fatalist is one of the most self aware admittedly even brazenly self critical and uite frankly hilarious novels about novel writing and reading that I have ever read It constantly stops to reflect on itself arring you with by repeatedly pointing out that this is not an escape this is not a reality this is a story about stories within stories within stories and you are reading it right now The tangled mess that it eventually becomes reminded me in many ways of THIS bit of genius Jacues le Fataliste et son ma tre Jacues the Fatalist Denis Diderot 1713 1784Jacues the Fatalist and his Master French Jacues le fataliste et son ma tre is a novel by Denis Diderot written during the period 1765 1780 The first French edition was published posthumously in 1796 but it was known earlier in Germany thanks to Goethe s partial translation which appeared in 1785 and was retranslated into French in 1793 as well as Mylius s complete German version of 1792The main subject of the book is the relationship between the valet Jacues and his master who is never named The two are traveling to a destination the narrator leaves vague and to dispel the boredom of the Beach Blanket Bad Boys journey Jacues is compelled by his master to recount the story of his loves However Jacues s story is continually interrupted by other characters and various comic mishaps Other characters in the book tell their own stories and they too are continually interrupted There is even a reader who periodically in Diderot it is a name less prestigious than Rousseau and Voltaire We think of the Encyclopedia some erotic novels well done the libertins novels of XVIII are often boring His tomb is not even in the Pantheon contrary in two othersAnd then there was Kundera And Kundera worships him So I m obliged to interest to him Diderot was inail for his ideas To escape the censorship he split up his writings Paradoxically I think that Diderot remains to discoverThus Jacues the fatalist Why fatalist Literally it is what is already said what is already written The fatalist it is someone who believes that all which arrives at him is written on a big book The fate governs the world and one has to bow before it We attend an oppo Jacues the Fatalist is complex and witty and contains some fairly interesting ideas about free will and determinism I enjoyed Jacues experimentalism and humour though these are far less impressive given the novel s similarities and proximity to Tristram Shandy So I m sitting in my place when the door bell rings I open the door to find a girl with chocolaty curly hair whom I never have seen before she takes hold of my hand with both her hands imploring me to help her Suddenly I m a superhero and she is a damsel in distress and so I ask her what is wrong And she sighing and almost sobbing tells meTells you what You askWhy do you care It is not a story it is supposed to be a review of Jacues the fatalist There is no book innocent than a bad book Denis Diderot was a polymath Philosophy theatre literature science he was involved in them all and his efforts during the enlightenment age earned praises from his contemporary Voltaire He championed the cause of freedom of speech and that of Science which wasn t much liked by church Like Voltaire he was an atheist This might lead you to believe that he wrote this chronicle to satirize the protagonist but the very opposite is the caseWell talking about fatalism it reminds of a women no not the women with chocolaty curly hair though if it was a novel that would definitly have been the case but this is real life The woman I m now talking about a friend told me how this one time she was sitting in a casino and losing constantly when this guy in a black suit comes in very ugly to be honest but except for that very very charming as she put it And now she was about to leave having nothing but bad luck that day but he somehow persuaded her to try again for number six and with all her money and again and again for three times and she won each time Obviously happy she was soon drinking with him asking him who he was and he told herAnd what did he say You ask againAgain always putting your nose in other people s business aren t we It is a review remember Dont distract meThe image that springs up in one s mind when one thinks of a fatalist is of someone who won t make an effort to improve his or her life or fight against his or her troubles but Jacues is not like that He is very active clever and always trying to enjoy his life His fatalism is of a belief in determinism he believes there is no free will everything shall happen according to what is written on high but it doesn t stop him from trying taking necessary caution against dangers putting on resistance etcDiderot himself didn t believe that there is a God who has written something but he believed that everything that happens springs from a cause and that cause itself has a cause and so on And so there is no free will He wanted to tell us how even someone believing in such fatalism won t be too immoral or a defeatistBut really I m too excited to tell you about the story of that girl with chocolaty curly hair and so she tells me that she has a cockroach in the house and that I must But you are laughing What did you expect Dragons Though if it was a novel it would definitely have been something sinister dragons vampireszombies aliens ghosts etc As it is I was even scared of cockroaches too and soWe would rather hear the end of casino girl storyYou sayBut I want to tell this oneBut we want to hear that one or we will leave You sayAngrily All right I guess it is written on high So the ugly guy is ust about to tell her his story when he notices something wrong with his drink and tells her to wait a second as he leaves to complain about itNow you might have noticed above I called it a chronicle instead of aAnd now you are still pestering me to finish the story firstBut he has gone to complain let him Meanwhile let me finish with the review Now you might have noticedBut the storyOh grow up Now you might havePlease I know that ugly charming man is devil And 666 he wanted her to play and how he was sure she will win andI will finish it in due time but we are here to review a novelYou sit back disappointedNow you might have noticed above I called it a chronicle instead of a novel and it is because our author keeps on reminding you of that It involves references to a number of real people And then Diderot who doesn t like novels as they have a number of convenient coincidences keeps on interrupting the story to tell you how a novelist would have written it There is a lot of meta humor in there And there are constant interruptions from writer reader people like you characters fate etc and some unfinished stories giving it a whole If on a winter night feel There is another similarity the reader with his or her constant uestions and demands that interrupt the story and annoy the author seems to have some sort of personality of his own Okay finished to get on with the story where were weHe had gone to complain about his drinkYes I remember And our lady is waiting in desperation she no longer wants to leave without knowing about him She is one of those curious souls who must hear end of everything like youYou mutter under your breath now he is being sarcastic again Did you say somethingJust that you are such a great story tellerflattered Oh me thanks So as I was saying she is waiting and finally he comes back and still angry tells her how these waiters are no good From his very long lament our lady learns that he is manager of casino see not a devil though if it was a novelYa ya then it could easily have been devil Go on and before long she guesses that he manipulated the game to. Ll In the introduction to this brilliant translation David Coward explains the philosophical basis of

Perfection Self consciously Shandian spawn which is one of the best things a book can be with a wit and intelligence that is still simply staggering I have read it twice but for some reason nothing else of his Will have to rectify this omission asap It s not that I know anything much about it first hand either as practitioner or as one who consumes the stuff so my diagnosis and treatment regimen are entirely obliue But you know it is not so uncommon to hear the compliant about MFAprose Like I said I don t really know what that means because I a don t have an MFA b probably don t read people with MFA s c read lotssome of folks who teach MFA s d but don t find anything particularly MFA ish about them most oddly it s a complaint I heard once about Ms Young s giant novel being MFA ish which is totally weird except for the fact that she used to teach MFA s in a uonset hut over in Iowa City right about the time this whole thing blew up And can you say that a Coover or a Barth both made their dough from the eager young studentwriter are in any way MFA ish And well how about I don t think it s the prose that s the problem it s the stuff that s the matter Not MFAprose but MFAAboutness And MFAForm Okay so much for an obliuely and uniuely uninformed diagnosis The treatment regimen is basically the same as it has always been and this won t work for everyone but everyone should take a look at it So first time as tragedy second as farce and what I mean here as first is that Barth has already done it redid what had already been done and I d suggest that if there be a cure for MFAmyopia it will be to repeat farcically what Barth has already repeated in the farcically tragic mode I mean basically ust a skip the MFA and ust read read read read and b skip the twentieth and nineteenth centuries altogether they ve been beaten to death with the obvious exception of the Barthmodel we are following here and Finnegans Wake which always goes without saying Just skip all that crap What I m saying is reawaken your story nerve and Watching Ice And Weather Our Way just fuck this stuff about prose gods aren t you tired of hearing about prose yet Here are a few things to try Jacues the FatalistThe Arcades Project really a bit anachronistic butust look at that FormThe Anatomy of MelancholyThe Father s The HistoriesAesop s FablesBurton s 1001 NightsThe History of the Peloponnesian War among other such and similarPlato The PancatantraThe Faerie ueeneLivy and all that Roman stuffGibbon s great Decline Fall goes without sayingDarwin if you re into that kind of thingHomerVirgil and related such epics from the NotGreeks like those Sagas from Iceland and those other Scandinavian booksHegel s Phenomenology is the standard Bildungsroman so you ll want to avoid that one Try Schelling s Ages of the World insteadOvidThose six Chinese classicsThe Indian books Barth likes you know which ie anything with River or Ocean or both in its titleThe Lais of Marie de France Miss MacIntosh My DarlingScrew ProustAny Arthurian thing that is not MontyPythonChaucer the FAT 2005 Penguin edit d by Jill Mann and Boccaccio and suchnotRabelais naturally and the rest of the everincreasing trinityStuff like Diderot and why not the whole L Encyclop die Diderot et d AlembertAnd then a really really BIG etc You get the picture Basically what I m saying is don t do a DFW and try to overcome postmodern fiction be rather like WTV and begin with the assumption of being already free of the PoMo dilemma repeat the Barthian gesture in the name of not becoming trapped in the Barthian morassOr if you want your prose to be totally knotMFA ust do the thing Vonnegut did and go to school to learn about something about which you can mold the aboutness of your writing and totally screw the idea of learning HOW to write You know the Best Stuff The Canon The Classics were always written without the shackle of Doing It The Write Way And for all I know don t read The New YorkerButwhat does any of this have to do with Diderot I don t know But there s that thing about how Diderot hates novels And novelists might be a little better off with a bit of the despising of the thing they are creating Maybe that s it For those exhausted or defeated by Tristram Shandy here is a precursor to the postmodern novel that packs in incident philosophy bitching and warm humour in its 237 pages than most modern avant garde writers manage in a whole corpus Jacues the titular Fatalist attempts to recount the tale of his first loves while accompanying his Master on a series of obliue misadventures that invariably end up as digressions and digressions All postmodern tricks stories within stories frames within frames direct reader insulting are present and better than in 1971 This is a wild and hilarious romp with a fiercely readable translation from the unfortunately named David Coward and this edition has an exemplary introduction that neither sueezes all life from the work nor drowns it in academic verbiage Proof once again the French are the true genitors of all great literature So it was written up there on high Master Do you prayJacues SometimesMaster And what do you sayJacues I say Thou who mad st the Great Scroll whatever Thou art Thou whose finger hast traced the Writing Up Above Thou hast known for all time what I needed Thy will be done AmenMaster Don t you think you would do ust as well if you shut upIt is often too easy for me to forget that high humor and religious cynicism are not new developments within the realm of published fiction On top of that as much as we readers here about pomo trickery and meta humor these terms often used as insults akin to calling someone trendy are generally associated with literature no than a century old Well to all you pomos and popomos allow me to introduce you to Denis Diderot He is your metatastic brother from another great great great great great grandmother At some point before his death in 1784 he composed Jacues the Fatalist in some editions titled Jacues the Fatalist and His Master an arguably better name because of the fact that it directly references the text s play on character power dynamics 1784 Remember thatThis novel written in the stage play style seen above combined with freuent asides by an omniscient brassy narrator tells the story of real life storytelling as depicted in written form Diderot breaks down the common motifs of the stock novel holding its cliches in one hand and the reality of conversing with other human beings in the other The dialogue is the same interrupted rambling endless swirl of words that we tend to find in actual attempts at expressing ourselves verbally either one on one or in groups Therefore stories are begun and left unfinished people are cut off corrected and reprimanded and plot possibilities are dangled in front of the reader and left to his or her own particular devices all while our playful snarky narrator reminds us that there is no way we can know for a fact one way or another if he is being truthful so why put stock in him or the storystories in the first place The book constantly re references repeats mirrorsdistorts and criticizes itself in a way that calls to uestion all creative interpretations of reality due amongst other things to the biases reader storyteller and subject bring into the telephone game that is relaying information in a meaningful way And it is amazingly funny while doing so I would be willing to bet my lunch money that Charlie Kaufman is a huuuuge Diderot fanTo go back to my earlier pointif you are religiously inclined I would stay away from this book unless you are of a mind to read elouently expressed harshly stated opinions which conflict with your own It is no secret that Diderot was a spiteful sort about organized religion and he uses Jacues and his insistence on Predestination as means to excuse his debauchery along with every other spiritual figure in the story each of which is almost corrupt than basically every non religious character within this fictional realm as a means to highlight the hypocrisy escapism and general slovenliness he saw in default spiritua. Jacues the Fatalist is a provocative exploration of the problems of human existence destiny and free wi.

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Denis Diderot was a French philosopher art critic and writer He was a prominent persona during the Enlightenment and is best known for serving as co founder and chief editor of and contributor to the EncyclopédieDiderot also contributed to literature notably with Jacues le fataliste et son maître Jacues the Fatalist and his Master which emulated Laurence Sterne in challenging conventions