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At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances (The 2½ Pillars of Wisdom #3)

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3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  2,633 ratings  ·  218 reviews
In At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances, Professor Dr. von Igelfeld gets caught up in a nasty case of academic intrigue while on sabbatical at Cambridge. When he returns to Regensburg he is confronted with the thrilling news that someone from a foreign embassy has actually checked his masterwork, Portuguese Irregular Verbs, out of the Institute’s Library. As a result, he...more
Paperback, 126 pages
Published December 28th 2004 by Anchor (first published 2003)
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Jason Koivu
Reduced indeed!

This short series by Alexander McCall Smith following the missteps of Dr. von Igelfeld, the well-intentioned but misguided professor of romantic philology, slightly degrades from book to book. I loved Portuguese Irregular Verbs, but the following two books weren't up to scratch. They were close in quality, but lacked the witty essence of the first.

The problem with At the Villa… is that it goes over the top more than the previous two. The ridiculous situations are more Three Stoog...more
Chris
There's nothing particularly wrong with this book; it's just that there's nothing particularly right with it either. There are two completely unrelated stories about the German professor Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld. In the first, he takes a sabbatical to Cambridge University, where he is completely flummoxed by British customs. He is dragged into a totally silly plot among the other academics that turns into absolutely nothing. In the second, he is quite proud to receive an honor from a university...more
June Louise
"'I cannot tell you how happy I am to be back in Germany. Cambridge is a fine place, but you know the probelem'......'Yes,' said von Igelfeld. 'Everything is so irrational in that country. And the people, quite frankly, are utterly eccentric. You have to analyse their smallest pronouncements to work out what they mean. If it is bad weather they will say things like 'Charming weather we are having!''And yet the weather isn't charming,' said Unterholzer. 'Why then do they say that it's charming?'...more
Ron Davidson
I chose this book because I was looking for a light easy read to clear my head, and to get back to reading, which I haven't been doing much of lately. This book caught my eye on a display where I work, and I've liked all the McCall Smith books I've read before this. I enjoy his books because they offer light, amusing stories, with strange, entertaining characters. This one is the same, but I couldn't get terribly excited about it. I think the novella format failed here -- too many scene changes...more
Praveen Narayanan
Alexander McCall Smith
I would rate all the books from the Prof. von Igelfeld 'Entertainment' series as excellent, although it is only fair that some are more excellent than others. This could be a subjective matter, a sort of multivariate problem with several things coming into the picture. Prof. Dr. McCall Smith (apologies if other titles, honorifics and so forth were omitted, which I will reason away by invoking the ignorance directive) has created a slightly more piquant piece here than usual...more
Jessica
I really really enjoyed all these books--fun, made you laugh, and quick reads. I like Alexander McCall Smith because he has a way of writing (convincingly) from the point of view of people from either Germany, as in this book, to Botswana to Scotland. He's brilliant. Although as Taryn says, he does better when writing from a woman's point of view.
Kitti
Delightful. I laughed out loud many times throughout the book. This is the continuing story of the professor; this life and times. If there ends up being another book in this series I will definitely be reading it (or listening).

This is another one that I totally recommend on audiobook. The reader has just the right balance of gravitas and humor.
Judy
The audio version was delightful, like all of Alexandre McCall Smith's books. However, this was a little slow until the Professor goes to Columbia. Also, it seems like the characters are beginning to sound more like one another. I could swear I heard Mme Ramotswe and Isobel Dalhoughsie phrases in his speech. Could I be hearing things? Hmmm
Sarah
Apr 28, 2012 Sarah added it
This wasn't my favorite book in the series. It was amusing to think of the ridiculous situations the main character got himself into, and nice to see the perspective it afforded him at the end. I think I had a harder time getting into it because of all the setting changes and it didn't seem very realistic.
Jenny Karraker
Again, I had to laugh at the further adventures of Professor von Igelfeld. It seems he keeps wondering into places where membership into an exclusive society has been extended to himself and not others, but he uses his influence to get them in. He ends up in Columbia, South America kidnapped by terrorists, but is able to extract himself by recommending the leader (who has been rejected membership into this society) into the group. The delight this drug-dealing thug displays on hearing of his mem...more
Andrea
Another fun read - although wholly unbelievable this time around. One particular piece struck me in the book: the Master at Cambridge rises to give a toast to his fellow colleagues - who are often "at odds" - and it is quite startlingly moving.

"There are amongst us still those who would deny to others the right to hold a different understanding of the fundamental issues of our time...we see people of one culture or belief still at odds with their human neighbors who are of a different culture o...more
Skyring
I have enjoyed it thoroughly, listening to the sometimes incomprehensible, sometimes alarming adventures of the good Professor.

McCall Smith has a delightful way of writing. His gentle humour, his philosophical reflections, above all, his insights into the everyday minor moral dilemmas of ordinary people, are a constant joy. Shakespeare or Austen are worthy comparisons here - he sees to the heart of humanity in all his characters. Even when he does not spell out their motivations and actions, we...more
Brenna
Midway through the first of two short-stories in At The Villa of Reduced Circumstances, one might be led to believe that Professor Dr von Igelfeld is a wholly unpleasant man.

“On Being Light Blue” portrays a stoic German professor, taking sabbatical in England, making unspoken judgments of those surrounding him. None of them, he feels, live up to the standards set by man within der faterland. In fact, von Igelfeld comes across as a humourless boor incapable of discerning irony from statement of...more
Rebecca
This third book in the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series is a bit fomulaic, but like McCall Smith's other novels I've read, the formula manages to sustain the reader's interest despite the outcome of the plot being mostly predictable. I also read the three books back-to-back, which could explain why I got a little tired of the structure by the middle of book 3. They might be best read a bit further apart.

The characterization of Professor Dr. von Ingelfeld continues to be spot-on in this book. Fo...more
Mark
Gentle but intelligent satire of the academic world. Settings are first the fictional Institute of Romance Philology in Germany, then a fictional college at Cambridge (England), then the villa of the title in Colombia, where Professor Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld has been invited to become an honorary member of the banana republic's elite Academy of Letters. A. McCall Smith's understated wit and clever dialogue make almost credible the both mundane and absurd situations von Igelfeld, author of the...more
Donna
I really enjoyed the first two Precious Ramotswe mysteries by Smith, and of course I am a huge Hugh Laurie fan, so I jumped at the chance to listen to this short series about an eccentric linguistic scholar, Dr. Moritz von Igelfeld.

This is not so much a novel as a series of short stories from the life of said scholar, and some of them were a bit funny, but most were not good enough to hold my interest. I found Igelfeld to be irritating and sanctimonious. Writing this review a year later, it is...more
Megan
I enjoy most of this author's books, in particular the Numer 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books as well as the Sunday Philosophy Club series. His pace is slow and makes you feel like nothing is happening, but his descriptions of the characters, male or female, are thorough.

The main character in this series is a German professor of Portuguese whose claim to fame is a book he wrote on irregular verbs. He feels this gives him cache amongst his peers and is always internally fighting for respect. This...more
Mark
This third book in the Professor von Igelfeld series is quirky, funny and even silly, but charming in its style and exquisite language. There are two separate short stories in this volume, one set at Cambridge in England and the other in Colombia. In both, Professor von Igelfeld finds himself in ridiculous situations, where his overblown sense of his self-importance prevails. I thought it was not as fresh as the previous two volumes, perhaps because the expansion of the character is limited. The...more
Kenneth
The centennial of WW1 is in August and I have been reading about the stupidity that led to the war and the terrible conduct of the war that cost so much in blood and treasure not to mention the fall of three empires. This novella was a welcome change. It is witty, whimsical and thoroughly enjoyable.
Mark Speed
Just as the author really got going with his protagonist and his colleagues, the series ended. McCall Smith had a funny relationship with this series. Or it might have been that his publisher wanted him to concentrate on something more commercial. I'd welcome another in the series.
Angela Boord
A gentle, funny little novel about politics in academia, the difference between Germans and the English, language, and hope. I'll probably be looking for books #1 and #2 in the series.

(On the Ambleside Online Year 12 free reading list)
Ensiform
The final Professor Dr von Igelfeld entertainment. This novella has only two chapters. In one, von Igelfeld takes a visiting fellowship at Cambridge, and nearly gets tangled up in academic rivalries and intrigues. In the second, ever more bizarre vignette, he does to get an honorary award in Bogota, gets taken prisoner by guerrillas, helps fight against the army, and is elected president of Columbia. In both, von Igelfeld, who knows and cares nothing of politics even in his own country, fumes ag...more
Deb
This is my second book of the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series. I was not disappointed. I experienced this book as an audiobook. The narrator is so fine. His accents and distinct voices add to the enjoyment. Our professor once again lands in such outlandish circumstances, through no fault of his own. How he gets through them with his unique outlook and thoughts made me laugh or smile as I drove listening to this book. McCall Smith's clever and subtle observations are always fresh and keep me li...more
Karen Ferguson
Kind of makes me think of the accidental tourist, he travels but he wants everywhere to be like where he lives. Delightful story
Rick Jones
Amusing, and the descriptions of academic jealousy are pretty funny. Not a romp I need to take more than once, though.
Johnsergeant
Narrated By: Paul Hecht
The Professor Dr. von Igelfeld Entertainments series

The irresistible wit of New York Times best-selling author Alexander McCall Smith has won over countless fans. His subtle humor and enchanting characterizations are fully on display in At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances. Professor Dr. von Igelfeld is pleased with his role as a visiting scholar at Cambridge, even if his English colleagues are difficult to comprehend. They frequently speak in metaphors and make peculiar...more
Jeanne Stephens
This is a funny book. Professor von Igelfeld goes on quite an adventure. He first goes to Cambridge and then to the Columbia, South America. All in all you find that his opinion of the English is quite funny. It is not as funny as what happens to him in Columbia though. I really like this subtle humor in this book. It is not as funny as "The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs," but it is funny. I like this author because he writes with a lot of variety. You always get a feel of some foreign place even...more
Janice
I enjoyed every word, comma, quote mark and bit of cleverness in the #1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. It was with great anticipation I enbarked on his "Proffessor's series. The same suble wit is there tho' 4 me it lacked the humanity of the previously mentioned series. Proffessor Doctor Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld main character in this series is so educated, so pompous and so brilliantly dense that I found myself annoyed at the same time I was smiling at the ridiculous...more
Megan
Actually quite cute. I haven't read the predecessors in this series (Portuguese Irregular Verbs and The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs)... "On Being Light Blue" wasn't terribly funny to me; however, "At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances" is witty and charming!
Joyce
This third book in the series featuring Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld of the Institute of Romance Philology is disappointingly not as absurdly funny as the first two. Still I enjoyed listening to his adventures as I drove although the absurdly funny became just absurd when Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld heads to Bogata, Columbia to collect an academic honor and ends up in a post a tad on the unbelievable side. McCall Smith does a blue-ribbon job of showing the arrogant and har...more
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Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the international phenomenon The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie Series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, and the 44 Scotland Street series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served on many national and international bodies concerned with bioethics. He was born in what...more
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