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The Cabala

3.28  ·  Rating details ·  160 ratings  ·  24 reviews
A young American student spends a year in the exotic world of post-World War I Rome. While there, he experiences firsthand the waning days of a secret community (a "cabala") of decaying royalty, a great cardinal of the Roman Church, and an assortment of memorable American ex-pats. The Cabala, a semiautobiographical novel of unforgettable characters and human passions, laun ...more
Paperback, 200 pages
Published January 28th 2004 by Kessinger Publishing (first published 1926)
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Average rating 3.28  · 
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Jim Puskas
Apr 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
What a refreshing change to read something so vastly different from anything written nowadays! Yes, this book is extremely dated, totally immersed in the language and outlook of the 1920s, but that's much of its charm. And what a delightfully bizarre menagerie of improbable exotic characters Wilder has presented here! So strange and unbelievable are they that I doubt he could have just imagined them, truth being stranger than fiction. They must have really existed, if not individually, then orga ...more
Sep 05, 2015 rated it liked it
Глупейший, но обаятельный дебютный роман очень молодого и очень наивного Торнтона Уайлдера))
С новой силой заскучала по Риму.
Grady Ormsby
Sep 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Cabala by Thornton Wilder is set in Rome in the early 1920’s and is a story that centers on of a group of “Fierce intellectual snobs” who are “very rich and influential.” Thornton divided the novel into Five Books. The first is “First Encounters” in which the characters are introduced by James Blair, a young American scholar and friend of the narrator, known only as Samuele. Among the cabalists there is Miss Elizabeth Grier, wealthy American spinster; Her Highness Leda Matilda Colonna Duches ...more
Daniel Rosler
Mar 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2015
Holy cow. What an amazing writer.
J. Alfred
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ironic and self-ironic, unapologetically literary, urbane and heady. Reads, for the most part, like Woolf or Forster, occasionally reaching wry delights: "When the bourgeoisie discovered that she was accepting invitations there was a tumult as of many waters."
This is a book where you get the feeling that the trees, as it were, are more important than the forest. And then, after weaving this glittering verbal spell, the story pounces from behind it and flexes: does things that I not only haven't
Erik Graff
Jun 18, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: literature
It must have been the influence of high school where we were required to read Our Town and The Bridge of San Luis Rey that gave me the idea that familiarity with Wilder was necessary for a liberal education. In any case, I went on to read his Ides of March, and wasn't impressed, and The Cabala, and was even less impressed.
Jerry Pogan
May 07, 2020 rated it liked it
An uneventful and plotless but beautifully written story of a young American who is befriended by a group of well-to-do socialites in 1920's Rome. It was Wilders first book and hinted at the enormous talent that he would demonstrate in his later writings.
Bob Newman
Oct 24, 2017 rated it liked it
"Gloom at the Top"

A polite New Englander somehow penetrates a top hat society of aristocrats, pale poets and princesses, and Cardinals in Rome, who are really hapless, caught forever in the coils of wealth and privilege, able to escape daily toil, but not vacuity. They are rather ironically known as the Cabala. [*Note: this book has nothing to do with Jewish mysticism. Nothing!] Our narrator describes a series of Cabala members individually and we learn how they are connected.. Having money is
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Слава Богу, что книжка оказалась короткой. От такого названия я ожидала повествования, если и не об учении каббалы, то хотя бы нечто типа «Маятника Фуко» Эко. Но это вообще не понятно что – что-то типа непутевых заметок Уайлдера о путешествии в Италию и встречи с некоторыми людьми.

Вообще странная книга – он говорит о группе людей, которые объединены между собой неким принципом таинственности, общего презрения к людям, чем-то еще непонятным. В итоге эти люди оказываются просто представителями бо
Oct 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
I was curious what Thorton Wilder's first novel would be like. This before he got famous with The Bridge of San Luis Rey, which I read way back in ninth grade, or his memorable play Our Town, which I read in ninth. Those were two very different books yet they entertained with detail in language and the provoking of philosophical musings. And we see some of that here in this semi-autobiographical portrait of a small group of conservative monarchist types gathered in Rome, representatives of an ea ...more
Feb 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Affluenza is defined as the negative psychological or behavioral effects of having or pursuing wealth, per This story excellently demonstrates that concept, as it explores the lives of a group of individuals whose wealth has insulated them from the world, while convincing them that it's their job to run the world.The exploration of the idea is absorbing, especially given the "contemporary" post-WWI setting, which allows a 21st century reader to see outcomes that the author (and c ...more
Tim Callicutt
Nov 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-books
A stronger read than I remember. Wilder comes out of the gate strong in terms of talent. The writing remains beautiful and the characters fascinating. However the story is more or less non-existent and the various streams that he pursues are uninteresting.
J. A.
Always interesting to go back and visit debut books from prized authors, and inside this one you can already see The Bridge of San Luis Rey forming.
Raül De Tena
Sep 05, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
El choque inicial es poderoso: lo más natural es que el lector llegue a “La Cábala” (editada ahora en nuestro país por Automática) esperando un relato misterioso que, a través de la figura protagónica del recién llegado, vaya desvelado poco a poco las luces y las sombras de esta organización secreta, tan similiar a los Masones pero en versión europeísta. Sorprendentemente, Thornton Wilder aniquila completamente el misterio en las primeras páginas, dejando al descubierto qué es exactamente la Cáb ...more
Aug 04, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wilder's first novel, written at age 26 after he had spent a year at the American school in Rome. A portrait of bored and decadent aristocracy in Rome between the wars. Characters drawn in great detail, but somehow they never came alive for me. The tone of the narrator is irritating--a very young man trying very hard to persuade the reader of his immense erudition by describing all the art and artists he encounters with barely concealed condescension. But then in what amounts to an afterword ent ...more
Austen to Zafón
While I like Wilder's writing style, which to me seems fairly fresh considering how old it is, this story didn't compel me. I did get through it, but it took a while, as every other book I was reading took precedence. I found it hard to care about rich and powerful (okay, maybe only in their own minds) people in Italy who throw parties and histrionic fits in equal measure. This is Wilder before he matured as a writer, rather full of himself, but giving us a peek of the promise that would produce ...more
Jan 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 20th-century
A curious but interesting novel, terribly well written, just as its much more famous successor The Bridge of San Luis Rey. The narrator, ostensibly Wilder's alter ego, is a young American writer who gets to know a circle of socialites in Rome, 'the cabala'. That's about all the plot there is: the narrator is an egoless fly on the wall who describes the socialites' peculiarities. This results in some very well written and interesting portraits of these super rich royalist conservatives, most of t ...more
Nov 19, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Katherine Scott
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Love his language. Love his way of describing people in just a few phrases so you really understand them. Love the way the narrator is a character without ever revealing too much of himself. Interesting ending. Still thinking about its implications.
May 12, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
This could quite possibly be the most boring book ever written. Great for insomniacs.
Dec 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, heartbeat
Underrated classic.
Clark Knowles
Jan 19, 2014 rated it liked it
I'm reading all of Wilder's novels this year in chronological order. This was his first. It reads more like a study of characters than a plotted novel. Some solid and witty prose.
Cristi Magracia
rated it it was ok
Dec 03, 2013
Patrick Goodnow
rated it liked it
Oct 15, 2009
John Mannion
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Jan 20, 2016
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Jul 22, 2015
Maria Apatenko
rated it it was ok
Oct 02, 2019
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Dec 10, 2009
Helen Hanschell Pollock
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Oct 05, 2014
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Thornton Niven Wilder was an American playwright and novelist. He received three Pulitzer Prizes, one for his novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey and two for his plays Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth, and a National Book Award for his novel The Eighth Day.

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