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Portuguese Irregular Verbs #3

At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances

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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 gets caught up in intrigue of a different sort on a visit to Bogota, Colombia.

126 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2003

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About the author

Alexander McCall Smith

565 books11.6k followers
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 is now known as Zimbabwe and he was a law professor at the University of Botswana. He lives in Scotland. Visit him online at www.alexandermccallsmith.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

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5 stars
922 (21%)
4 stars
1,398 (33%)
3 stars
1,415 (33%)
2 stars
409 (9%)
1 star
85 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 374 reviews
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,257 followers
June 3, 2016
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.

Now, don't get me I still enjoyed the ass out of this book. However, the problem with At the Villa… is that it goes over the top more than the previous two. The ridiculous situations leaned more towards Three Stooges than Oscar Wilde, more towards Benny Hill than Voltaire. I can get down on some Stooges and Hill gave me giggles a'plenty as a kid, but I expected something more high brow after the tone set by the first book.

The setting ranges further afield than its predecessor as well. Von Igelfeld's short sojourn to Cambridge University was nice (it being a personal favorite stop on a UK trip I made), but then he's off to South America and things get unreal.

I'm telling you though, I still really enjoyed it! It's got enough subtle and dry humor to entertain those who liked what they read in P.I.V., but generally the delicate stuff gets trampled under foot as Smith goes for the broader laugh.

Rating: 3.5 stars
Profile Image for Chris.
1,121 reviews24 followers
May 1, 2013
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 in Colombia and travels there only to find himself caught up in the guerilla warfare of South American countries. But really, in the end, it doesn't amount to very much either. It might be described as a cross between Mr. Bean and Woody Allen in Bananas. So clearly I'm not getting something here. I didn't like Von Igelfeld or any of the others. There didn't seem to be a single character who wasn't more of a caricature. There are moments of wry amusement but nothing that would make me want to read more about this character, at least not without alot more plot development.
Profile Image for Sve.
541 reviews181 followers
December 22, 2016
Чудесен е, особено за път. И за разлика от прехваления Бакман пише добре.
485 reviews139 followers
August 9, 2016

I bought this secondhand for a quick, enjoyable and amusing read.
It was short for one thing...a mere 120 pages or so.

I had never heard of the title,
but I had heard of Alexander McCall Smith,
admired him from several interviews he had given in Australia,
and very much enjoyed his No.1 Ladies Detective Agency and its TV Series.
However, (Oh! fatal word!!), I had stopped reading his books after yet another one
of his tales set in Edinburgh fell f..l...a..t..! ...very !!! ....for me!
I felt buying this book was an act of Faith in just how good a writer McCall Smith CAN be.

What I had no idea of was that this volume was the Final Volume of a Trilogy.
In fact, all I knew of this book was the Wonderfully Intriguing title.
(I must confide that I have grown into the habit of trying to find out as little as I can about a book's contents before I read it...a few general bits that arouse interest, and then I STOP.
No MORE info...I know I am hooked, so why keep pursuing what the book will tell you?
Let go and enter the book, you have it...so let it unfold itself.
As a result My Reading has become MUCH MORE INTERESTING !!)

Later, after enjoying the Read VERY MUCH,
I learned that the phrase "Portugese Irregular Verbs", which appeared a few times,
was also the Title of the First book in a Trilogy...and meant to be satirical.
AND that I had just enjoyed Book Three !!!!

I also learned later that the characters and story were claimed to be "a delightful result"
and "a creation of comic genius." This was to be found on the front flap of the book's cover
as was the following..."For in the unnaturally tall form of Professor Doctor Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld, we are invited to meet a memorable character whose sublime insouciance is a blend of the cultivated pomposity of Frasier Crane and of Inspecteur Clouseau's hapless gaucherie".

I really enjoyed this book...it was as I had hoped a "quick, enjoyable and amusing read"
BUT (here we go again !!!) it WASN'T the book referred to on the inside flap of the cover.
I DID meet Professor Doctor Moritz-Maria Ogelfeld, but neither Frasier Crane nor Inspecteur Clouseau and their amusing faults had once crossed my mind. Nor had the Professor's "unnaturally TALL form" shared with "his equally TALL and equally ridiculous colleagues"...these also gleaned from the Flap !!! I have a very TALL , congenial next door neighbour and have NEVER found his TALL aspect 'funny' in the least. Nor has it EVER implied that it made him 'ridiculous' !!!

An OBVIOUS difference re Crane and Clouseau is that they are VISUALLY funny
and this book was ALL print !!! ...with a few illustrations that implied nothing really humorous.
But I HAD REALLY ENJOYED IT !!!! which is why I had read it so quickly.

For instance there are the Cultural Misunderstandings that occur when the Professor takes a Four Month Special Guest Stay at Cambridge University..."Von Igelfeld stared at the Master.Was this a serious remark to which he was expected to respond? The English were very difficut to read; half the things they said were not meant to be taken seriously, but it was impossible, if you were German, to detect which half this was."

This theme of misunderstood language takes up most of the first 60 pages with other amusing titbits. I relished it. It created situations that were intriguing,understandable, posed embarassing situations, caused confusion and tension, even moral dilemmas...and Constant Humour !!

And the next 60 or so pages concern "'reading' situations", expecting the unexpected, that things aren't quite what they seem to be on the first encounter.
I thoroughly enjoyed it - in all innocence;
and because I was NEVER distracted by any preconcieved foreknowledge,
which I certainly would have had IF I had read those wretched flaps which as far as I am concerned gave a totally false and very poor review of the book .

On Goodreads most reviewers seemed to be very disappointed with this Third "Entertainment" as McCall Smith names his 3 books of the Trilogy. But this was the VERY FIRST I knew about ANY trilogy. I had nothing to compare it to as I read it totally out of a sequence I didn't even know existed. It was a lot of Fun; actually TENSE...and then suddenly amusing in the Second Half.
A totally different world as well. I was very pleased with Alexander McCall Smith...whereas most reviewers were disappointed. I'm looking forward to reading the first Two parts of the Trilogy because reviewers said they were even better than the last instalment
...so for me the Trilogy should only get better since I am reading it backwards!!!

My Reading Investigations have proved that if you come to a book knowing a certain amount,
and so having a preconcieved idea, then the likelihood is that you will actually 'read' the preconcieved idea which probably doesn't even exist, and all because you have read a review
...a poor review. Your mind will create what you have been told to expect.
So you will 'SEE' what isn't there because you have been assured it IS there,
just as people DON'T see what IS there because they are NOT expecting to see it !!!

eg. ever NOT see the Gorilla ambling through the basketball players on court,
but you DO on a second showing because you have been informed that a Gorilla IS there??
( I sure hope it was there because I SAW it !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Profile Image for Ренета Кирова.
1,048 reviews24 followers
March 15, 2020
И последната част ми хареса. В нея Фон Игелфелд разбира, че всеки човек си има слабости и прави грешки, важното е да го обичаш, въпреки това. Интересна и необичайна трилогия.
Profile Image for June.
255 reviews
June 22, 2012
"'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?' 'Why indeed?' agreed von Igelfeld. 'They often say the direct opposite of what they mean'".

Of the trilogy of books in the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, this was the one I liked least, although I still found it entertaining reading. Von Igelfeld goes off to Cambridge for a Sabbatical, and meets some interesting characters during his time there, and learns of plots to topple a Fellow of one of the Cambridge University colleges. Then, on his return home to Germany from his Sabbatical, he is convinced his rival Unterholzer has been using his office...but how can he prove it? Finally, our hero von Igelfeld gets the recognition he so rightly deserves from a University in Colombia, where he not only picks up a Fellowship, but takes an active and heroic part in a Revolution, the consequences of which not even he could have predicted!

Loved this trilogy, comic, light-hearted and fun. Well done Mr McCall Smith!

"And he realised then that there were more important things to worry about, and that we must love those with whom we live and work, and love them for all their failings, manifest and manifold though they be".
Profile Image for Kitti.
161 reviews4 followers
May 5, 2009
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.
Profile Image for Desislava Filipova.
281 reviews41 followers
June 1, 2018
"Вилата на ограничените възможности" е третата част от поредицата за приключенията на професор Морис Мария фон Игелфелд. Изтъкнатият учен ще се озове в Кеймбридж, където ще опознае академичните среди и ще бъде замесен в интриги, а след това бъде поканен в Колумбия,за да му бъде връчено почетно звание, но поради сложната обстановка в тази страна и обратите на съдбата, ще играе важна роля в събитията.
Алегзандър Маккол Смит продължава да поставя герои си в редица забавни ситуации, а фон Игелфелд не спира да изненадва с наивните си и добродушни реакции. Въпреки че на пръв поглед изглежда с прекалено старомодни и странни разбирания и има твърде високо мнение за собствената си значимост, в него има нещо чаровно и се усеща, че се наслаждава на необичайните ситуации, в които попада.
Трилогията беше изключително приятна и забавна.
Profile Image for Hákon Gunnarsson.
Author 27 books134 followers
March 1, 2019
And so the heroic adventures of professor doctor Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld continues in the third book in the series, much in the same way as the previous two, but perhaps with even more wildly improbable plot, especially in the second part of the book. I never knew professors of philology led such remarkably exciting lives.

I had a lot of fun reading it. Laughed a lot. And that is the main point of it.
Profile Image for Ezgi.
79 reviews3 followers
August 30, 2023
Çok sevip güldüğüm bir seri oldu. Mizahi olarak çok dengeli romanlar. Hemen her sayfası komik. Profesörün küçük akademik dünyasında yaşadığı kıskançlıklar çok sevimli. Magnum opusu Portekizce Düzensiz Fiiller’i Hawking’in Zamanın Tarihi ile kıyasladığı anlar muhteşemdi. Bu kitapta da bol bol geziyoruz. İngiltere’den Kolombiya’ya tüm garipliklerini sergiliyor Igelfeld.
Profile Image for astaliegurec.
984 reviews
November 22, 2014
Alexander McCall Smith should be congratulated for getting "At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances" published. Unlike the previous two books where the "story" was fairly pointless, with this book, the "story" reads like an LSD dream. I fully expected Herr Professor Dr von Igelfeld to suddenly awaken and express his thankfulness for still being in Germany. Alas, it was not to be. The story is what the story appears to be. OK. That out the way, on to a bit more detail. Whereas the first book in the series contained eight mostly unrelated vignettes (i.e., "chapters"), and the second book five slightly more cohesive "chapters," this book consists of a mere two "chapters" that are entirely unrelated to each other. In the first chapter, Professor Dr von Igelfeld is at Cambridge scratching his head at the behavior and politics of English academia. This is actually the good, fairly rational chapter. In the second chapter, he's in Columbia having pipe dreams or something. It's just crazy stuff (and not in a good way). I have no idea why any publishing house would have accepted such a thing and published it. If the technical writing weren't decent, I'd have rated it at rock bottom. But, I'll be generous and give it a merely Pretty Bad 2 stars out of 5.

The books in Alexander McCall Smith's "Professor Dr von Igelfeld" series are:

1. Portuguese Irregular Verbs: A Professor Dr von Igelfeld Entertainment Novel (1)
2. The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs: A Professor Dr von Igelfeld Entertainment Novel (2)
3. At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances: A Professor Dr von Igelfeld Entertainment Novel (3)
4. Unusual Uses for Olive Oil: A Professor Dr von Igelfeld Entertainment Novel (4)
Profile Image for Carol Bakker.
1,207 reviews79 followers
April 24, 2021
Professor Dr von Igelfeld is growing on me. However, as with P.G. Wodehouse's wit, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series should probably not be ingested 1-2-3, as I did. If I had spaced it out, I'd likely give it four stars.

McCall Smith pokes fun at pompous, petty, self-promoting academics.

And if von Igelfeld is anything, he is awk. ward. When Von Igelfeld visits Oxford, he is aghast when the porter tells him there is no bathroom in his room.
Von Igelfeld pursed his lips. The situation was clearly intolerable, and the only thing to do would be to arrange with this Professor Waterfield, whoever he was, that he should refrain from using the bathroom during those hours that von Igelfeld might need it.
McCall Smith is a hoot with character names. A throwaway detail in one episode is about Dr. Plank (who spells his name 'Haughland'). Or Dr. C.A.D. Wood. And my favorite lengthy name from this book: Señor Gabriel Marcales de Cinco Fermentaciones!
Profile Image for Linda.
516 reviews49 followers
August 3, 2018
This was a silly little book, but enjoyable. It continues with the tale of the well-intentioned but slightly goofy Dr Von Ingelfeld, a philology professor and the renowned author (a legend in his own mind, more likely) of the book Portuguese Irregular Verbs. In this installment, he first travels to England on a fellowship, and then to Columbia, where he gets caught up in a mini-revolution. This isn’t Alexander McCall Smith’s best work, but it was cute.
Profile Image for Stacy.
67 reviews
May 30, 2022
Grabbed this from the library for a light vacation read. The combination of absurdity and insight into human nature — which is often absurd — was just what I wanted.
25 reviews
May 25, 2017
The writing style is very pleasant but it didn't quite work as satire. It was either too crude or too subtle - and I think more likely the first. I found the book very easy to read - I raced along waiting for something to happen, and for most of the book nothing did happen. The satire of Cambridge didn't really hit its target, and that's hardly because the subject matter wasn't ripe for something a little more pointed. Eventually a lot of things happened very fast - but they were so surreal that they didn't really engage me. I wasn't sure if the Columbian adventure was meant to be a satire about naive, pedantic German academics or 'unstable' South American countries or both - either way I didn't think it worked - unless I didn't get the joke. The description of Columbia was particularly ridiculous. Perhaps this was meant to be a joke about the narrator's ignorance - but if so, there was no real device to show that his account was mistaken. Instead the books appears to engage in stereotypes rather than satire.

I was disappointed because McCall Smith has a very natural writing style and I think that the main character had potential, if the story itself had been a bit more interesting or incisive.
Profile Image for Jess.
620 reviews
January 21, 2009
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.
Profile Image for Sarah.
17 reviews
August 25, 2015
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.
Profile Image for Megan.
2,222 reviews11 followers
January 1, 2023
Two short stories share this book, essentially, as sequential but unrelated adventures in the life of von Igelfeld. McCall Smith unleashes some of his brief but beautiful passages about human relations to turn these otherwise somewhat silly (in the second tale, downright farcical) stories into charming meditations.
Profile Image for Irena.
192 reviews10 followers
January 3, 2017
Разделих се с последната част от трилогията за професор Фон Игелфелд с леко съжаление, но съм убедена, че ще посягам към приключенията на академичния мърморан в моменти на съзнателно търсено разведряване и размисляне върху живота изобщо.
Profile Image for Ann.
715 reviews
June 25, 2017
A delightful little book about a stodgy German professor. The first 1/2 of the book "On Being Light Blue" is his travel Cambridge as a visiting fellow. However, part 2 of the book "At The Villa of Reduced Circumstances" was my favorite. (To tell more would require a 'spoiler' alert).
Profile Image for Barbara.
50 reviews1 follower
October 24, 2017
The slapstick nature of the story combined with revolutionary history makes it almost believable at times. German philogist travels to collect an award meets Columbian revolutionary narcotraficantes and comes out in an accidentally heroic role.
Profile Image for Book Time with Elvis.
72 reviews13 followers
February 9, 2020
I really enjoy these stories and the misadventures of Professor Dr von Igelfeld, its a shame they are not more highly rated I guess they are not everyone's cup of tea but I find them lighthearted and most amusing I wish there were more.
Profile Image for Bruce Thomas.
468 reviews1 follower
November 12, 2016
Only two longer stories of Professor Dr. vol Eglefelt; not quite as humorous and a little more unbelievable.
Profile Image for Alicia.
521 reviews
June 12, 2017
I didn't realize this was the third book in the series, but that didn't matter. I enjoyed these two adventures in the life of Professor Dr von Igelfeld. Perfect Sunday afternoon reading.
629 reviews1 follower
August 3, 2017
This is just as nutty and crazy as the 2 first books in the series. I was certain this was going to be a 3 star review but the last chapter is so much fun as it makes it 4 stars.
33 reviews
February 27, 2018
A nice, quick-to-read satire on academia for those with a subtle sense of humor. I truly enjoyed it and consumed it in a single day.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 374 reviews

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