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Figures of Earth (The Biography of Manuel #2)

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  165 ratings  ·  12 reviews
Figures of Earth: A Comedy of Appearances (1921) is a fantasy novel or ironic romance by James Branch Cabell, set in the imaginary French province of Poictesme during the first half of the 13th century. The book follows the earthly career of Dom Manuel the Redeemer from his origins as a swineherd, thru his elevation to the rank of Count of Poictesme, to his death. It forms ...more
Paperback, 264 pages
Published October 28th 2004 by (first published 1921)
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Community Reviews

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Mundus vult decipi - the world wants to be deceived - and the happier man is one whose desires remain unfulfilled inform all of Cabell's writing. As the chroniclers write of Poictesme's redemption:

"For although this was a very heroic war, with a parade of every sort of high moral principle, and with the most sonorous language employed upon both sides, it somehow failed to bring about either the reformation or the ruin of humankind: and after the conclusion of the murdering and general breakage
Published in 1921. Delightfully cynical and cynically delightful, and wickedly ironic. It's about the great heroic figure Manuel the Redeemer of the mythical land of Poictesme, and the very unheroic truth about him. Very funny.
A shimmering, pseudo-fantastical fable on the price of 'success' - provisionally defined in the text as "but the strivings of an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home."

Manuel, the 'hero' of the story, set in an imaginary medieval France, rises to the apex of this 'success' with the aid of powerful women, each of whom he uses and then betrays in one way or another. Eventually,
Actually, this is a first edition, but I don't think I can add that to the database.

This was a book I'd forgotten I owned, an old, battered hard back which belonged to my father. Kind of hard to rate, because I'm not sure how much the reaction I had was too the book itself. Like all of Cabell's works, it's both well written and depressing. This one is about youthful dreams and the misery of aging. Now I have to re-read Jurgen, because I'd somehow conflated them in memory. A very similar theme, I
Greg Bates
In the introduction to Figures of Earth, written to Sinclair Lewis (another early 20th-century writer with whose work I'd like to get better acquainted this year), James Branch Cabell provides an explanation of his own writing that's rather...un-Cabellian. Rather than his usual wry exhuberance, Cabell sounds almost apologetic for the novel he's about to drop in your lap, and with good reason. Figures of Earth is an alright novel that suffers from two huge problems:

1) It's not quite as good as Ju
James Sundquist
A companion masterpiece to Jurgen, this is rather different because of a rather more serious protagonist. Though the theme (lost youth) is the same, Manuel's approach is quite different, and his stoic, accidental heroism is a contrast to Jurgen's vainglory. Also like Jurgen, it is a book where you might well want cliff-notes or some sort of glossary by your side (also, one time when a Kindle's search function would be very welcome!). I also thought that in the classic fantasy format of the story ...more
Richard Scott
James Branch Cabell has a clean and clear style that entertains and enlivens.
Very interesting and unique. I never expected it to be so good.
Mike Franklin
3/5 stars

Figures of Earth by James Branch Cabell

It took me a while to get into the writing which I found very stylised and reminiscent of the likes of Le Morte d’Arthur or Ivanhoe, but there the similarity ends. Cabell manages to be both serious and, at the same time, poking fun at the genre. The humour is mostly very very dry, so much so that I wasn’t even sure it was intentional until coming across passages like this:

One day, toward autumn, as Manuel was sitting in this place, and looking into
Who influences the influencers - according to many fantasy and satirists alike it was Cabell who's fantasy and wit is wry and dryer than the Mojave. I can definitely see where many of the greats appreciated his craft at the time from Twin, Heinlein, Leiber, Gaiman and Pratchett, but those masters took the craft to another dimension entirely. Read at the risk of curing your insomnia.
really interesting take on high fantasy... I could see why Neil Gaiman lists this as one of his influences. Both humorous and poking fun at the genre and classically high fantastical happenings.
Sep 10, 2010 Velvetink marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-fantasy
*note to self. Copy from A.
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James Branch Cabell was a novelist, critic and poet.
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“For although this was a very heroic war, with a parade of every sort of high moral principle, and with the most sonorous language employed upon both sides, it somehow failed to bring about either the reformation or the ruin of humankind: and after the conclusion of the murdering and general breakage, the world went on pretty much as it has done after all other wars, with a vague notion that a deal of time and effort had been unprofitably invested, and a conviction that it would be inglorious to say so.” 13 likes
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