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The 2 1/2 Pillars of Wisdom (Portuguese Irregular Verbs #1-3)

3.67  ·  Rating Details ·  810 Ratings  ·  82 Reviews
Welcome to the extraordinary world of Professor Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld, an unnaturally tall and memorable character whose sublime insouciance is a blend of the cultivated pomposity of Frasier Crane and Inspector Clouseau's hapless gaucherie.Von Igelfeld inhabits the rarefied world of the Institute of Romance Philology at Regensburg, which he shares with his equally t ...more
Paperback, 394 pages
Published 2004 by Abacus
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May 01, 2015 Anupriya rated it really liked it
To be honest, this was not one of those books that gripped me from the very first page. Took me a while before I could feel any involvement in the protagonist and his world. I had a similar feeling of the sort when I read my first Blandings castle novel. By the time I was 15 -20 pages in, I was hooked. The Blandings castle analogy is particularly apt because 21/2 pillars does remind me of Wodehouse’s gentle wit and the sublime world he created for us in his books. A world that no longer exists, ...more
Jun 04, 2016 Lisa rated it really liked it
Alexander McCall Smith takes the story of the lives of three philologists and creates stories of workplace slights, petty arguments, envy and snobbery and still makes you want to continue reading about them. Every conference invitation becomes a cause of conspiracy and one-upmanship.

Our main character, Dr. Moritz-Maria Von Igelfeld, whose family crest he proudly shows the noble hedgehog. He is such a snob he doesn't recognize the Pope while Igelfeld conducts research in the Vatican library.

Manda Wilson
Jun 25, 2010 Manda Wilson rated it really liked it
Shelves: borrowed
"He sighed. It was not easy maintaining one's position as the author
of Portuguese Irregular Verbs. Not only was there Unterholzer (and all
that tiresome business with is dog), but von Igelfeld also had to cope
with the distinct unhelpfulness of the Librarian and with the
unmitigated philistinism of his publishers. Then there was the awkward
attitude of the university authorities, who recently had shown the
temerity to ask him to deliver a series of lectures to undergraduate
students. This had almost b
Dec 16, 2009 Graham rated it liked it
One of the funniest reads around - the subtlety of some of the recurring themes ... sausage dogs ... Wagner ... the petty rivalries ... just when you feel it's safe, suddenly you find yourself rolling on the floor at some new hilarious irony. I will never be able to look at a sausage dog the same again.

There were a couple of points in the book (particularly in the third book, At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances) where I felt like things were somewhat "over the top" and where McCall Smith lost
Sep 20, 2016 Cliff rated it liked it
I love the Scotland Street series by this author. Bertie and his impossible mother are great comic creations. The Isabel Dalhousie series is also another winner. I found Corduroy Mansions only firing on 3 cylinders. Apart from the TV series, I've never got into the Ladies Detective Agency series. Although the first in this trilogy was published in 2003 it wasn't on my bookdar until I picked up this combined volume. The author uses the book to take a pop at pretentious, self absorbed, academics t ...more
Jul 04, 2016 Hannah rated it really liked it
"He wondered why the Master had made the assumption that the journey went well. In his experience, journeys did not go well. They were full of humiliations and assaults on the senses; smells that one would rather not smell; people one would rather not meet; and incidents that one would rather not had happened."

I actually considered giving this a five star, it was so enjoyable. I think that this early McCall Smith series might actually be my favourite. Centred around the small, daily dramas of Pr
Jan 27, 2015 Marina rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, zimbabwe
This book is a collection containing the three novels, or rather novellas, Portuguese Irregular Verbs, The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs, and At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances. They are not really novels, as a series of instalments recounting the vicissitudes of Professor Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld and his companions Unterholzer and Prinzel. All of them are professors in the Institute of Romance Philology, and von Igelfeld is the author of the famous work Portuguese Irregular Verbs. We foll ...more
Jan 07, 2014 Sujeet rated it really liked it
Shelves: favourites, humour
I cannot term "The 2 Pillars of Wisdom" as a novel, for two reasons.

Reason No. 1 - It is actually not a single novel, but a collection of three novellas; i.e. Portuguese Irregular Verbs, The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs, At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances.

Reason No. 2 - It is rather a series of events in the life of a character that can guarantee a stoic large convulsions of laughter, and hence can be read from any point without wondering too much about the context.

Previously I had read Alexa
May 27, 2015 Narissaphelps rated it liked it
I gave this book three stars. I enjoyed its gentle satirical humour which was subtle and far from offensive whilst at the same time being very close to the truth in some instances. There was a distinct charm about this book, typical of the author's style. All I can say is that sausage dogs will forever remind me of this novel (or trilogy of novels). The final book strayed a little into the realms of being "over the top" and Igelfeld took on shades, I thought of John Cleese, which I felt was a bi ...more
Aug 30, 2010 R rated it it was amazing
The 2 1/2 Pillars of Wisdom by Alexander McCall Smith
Abacus, 2004
How I got this book: Borrowed it from the library.
Why I read this book: I was playing tennis with a friend when she recommended it to me. She said she felt like she was trapped in the opening story. You might understand my reluctance to go on with the anecdote if you've read the story in question.

The 2 1/2 Pillars of Wisdom consists of a trilogy of comic short novels – Portuguese Irregular Verbs, The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs, a
Harini Padmanabhan
May 21, 2013 Harini Padmanabhan rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 29, 2010 Gill rated it liked it
Recommends it for: academics, people with a ticklish sense of humour.
Shelves: ams, other-places
Three, four, three? I couldn't decide the star rating. I'd read Portuguese Irregular Verbs and The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs before this book arrived, and I hadn't realised that it was a compilation of the three volumes so I actually went straight on to At The Villa of Reduced Circumstances.

Having the three volumes in one enabled me to compare the physical properties of the three: 130 pages divided into 8 chapters in the first, approximately the same number of pages divided into 5 chapters f
June Louise
The 2 1/2 Pillars of Wisdom is the exciting and humorous trilogy of tales featuring the hapless Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld, Professor of Philology, and his two professorial colleagues - Prof Detlev Amadeus Unterholzer and Professor Florianus Prinzel.

In Portuguese Irregular Verbs the three Professors are students, teaching themselves tennis, engaging in fencing duels (when they have never fenced in their lives before), transcribing Irish vulgar swear words, "getting on" with hostile Italians,
Santosh Bhat
Aug 02, 2014 Santosh Bhat rated it liked it
Reminiscent of a gentler version of Wodehouse, the 2 1/2 pillars of wisdom recounts the (mis)adventures of the mild mannered, bumbling, haughty philologist Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld. It was mildly amusing, a harmless treat whetting my appetite for sampling McCall Smith's more well-known work - The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.
Jul 01, 2014 Ginette rated it it was ok
I like the author, that's why I picked up the book.
I couldn't get to like the characters and the story. always something bad happening even if it could make me smile sometimes.
so I couldn't read it all, just around 50pages plus some at random in case I found the other chapters better.
Judi Moore
Nov 04, 2013 Judi Moore rated it it was ok
A collection of gentle, moral tales concerning the bizarre adventures of the rather prickly Professor Dr von Igelfeld who holds a chair in a truly obscure subject at a German university and never sees a single student. Three previous books have been combined into this single volume : 'Portugese Irregular Verbs', 'The finer points of sausage dogs' and 'At the Villa of Reduced Circumstaces'. So if you've read any of those, don't bother picking this one up. There is considerable learning lightly di ...more
Mary Hemenway
Jan 02, 2015 Mary Hemenway rated it it was amazing
I go back to the fascinating characters in this series over and over - whenever I need a laugh about how some academics consider themselves and how he world revolves around them.
Sep 26, 2015 Lina rated it it was amazing
The humour in this book is just unbelievable at times - a great read. The audiobook - read by Hugh Laurie - is unbeatable. Fantastic, makes you laugh or smile while you read.
Mar 11, 2015 Cinamona rated it really liked it
For the first two parts I'd give a strong 5 star rating. Honestly, it was amazing, hilarious, and so strangely silly that I couldn't put it down. However, the last part seemed pretty bad for me, it lacked easy and quite realistic situations, thus making it hard to keep reading and following the idea... So, just because of it, 4 it is.
Aletha Tavares
Jun 21, 2010 Aletha Tavares rated it really liked it
And into the world of an academic does McCall Smith lead you, that closer home you can thus identify with profs who have once written their greatest book and upon its laurels rest! The rapport with colleagues, the ups and downs of being one up on them, the strange situations that only an academic would find themselves in (reminds me of The David Lodge series here)- and of course the Cambridge episode that brings to mind the brevity of such places but underneath what simmers, is so subtly integra ...more
Ally Shand
Mar 09, 2015 Ally Shand rated it really liked it
A joyous and hilarious read, from beginning to end. Made even more enjoyable by having met, very briefly, the real life professor who the main protagonist is inspired by in a Hamburg restaurant while visiting a friend last year!
Jul 24, 2014 Christy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love the world of Prof von Igelfeld! The petty academic rivalry, the extreme social politeness, the philology of romance languages. Perhaps because I would actually read a book called "Portugese Irregular Verbs" and have read books with similar titles... Delightful :D
Jane Wynne
Jun 26, 2015 Jane Wynne rated it really liked it
This compilation of three short stories is the tale about Professor Von Ingelfeld who is a pompous German who is famed for his book 'Portuguese Irregular Verbs'. His reflections on other countries 'the English have no sense of humour' is funny for his priggishness and his straight German ways are very amusing.
Sep 16, 2016 Darren rated it it was amazing
Shelves: humour
What to say about this book...
This is one of the very few books that made me literally drop off my chair with laughter. I had to cry rivers so many times, that I couldn't see the pages anymore.
And this during a time where my life failed to be funny. So... I owe the book A LOT
Jan 22, 2015 Inge rated it liked it
Shelves: boekenkast
Ah, this was a good read. The silliness of academics laid bare - a good advice to not take yourself too seriously ;)
Jun 01, 2014 Valerie rated it really liked it
Always full of wit and understatement - so enjoyable!
Vicki Edwards
Aug 06, 2016 Vicki Edwards rated it it was amazing
This is one of my all time favourite books.
Jul 26, 2009 Isabell rated it liked it
This was an entertaining read. I enjoyed the commentary on German academia. Alexander McCall Smith obviously knows how to write, but I still feel like he could do more. There was one particularly amazing part in the book, in which he talks about the Irish landscape, and it was written in absolutely stunning prose. There was also one very amazing part in Dream Angus, but McCall Smith seems to always just include one amazingly written paragraph. I wonder why he chooses not to fill his entire books ...more
May 28, 2010 Jo rated it it was amazing
Hilarious. Dry wit. Subtle humor. Wonderfully weird and awkward situations. I can't get enough. From beloved Germany to Ireland to Italy England and Columbia, Igelfeld leaves his mark. I want more von Igelfeld. What will he do next? There is absolutely no way to know what petty problem or imagined slight will set our hero off. If McCall Smith ever decides to return to the world of German academia, I'll be first in line to read the further adventures of the professor doctor. Update: Yeah! A book ...more
Jun 25, 2010 Sonia rated it really liked it
Shelves: humour
Three of McCall Smith's humorous novellas Portuguese Irregular Verbs, The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs and At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances come together to form The 2 1/2 Pillars of Wisdom. The crazy adventures of Professor Doctor Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld are sometimes quite believable and sometimes quite over-the-top. However, anyone with some experience of the world of academics can not but recognise the idiosyncrasies of academic scholars that have been ridiculed in these unlikely adve ...more
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Incorrect description 1 15 Dec 28, 2008 02:23AM  
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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
More about Alexander McCall Smith...

Other Books in the Series

Portuguese Irregular Verbs (4 books)
  • Portuguese Irregular Verbs (Portuguese Irregular Verbs, #1)
  • The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs (Portuguese Irregular Verbs, #2)
  • At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances (Portuguese Irregular Verbs, #3)
  • Unusual Uses for Olive Oil (Portuguese Irregular Verbs, #4)

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