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The Manuscript Found in Saragossa

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  3,333 ratings  ·  349 reviews
Alphonse, a young Walloon officer, is travelling to join his regiment in Madrid in 1739. But he soon finds himself mysteriously detained at a highway inn in the strange and varied company of thieves, brigands, cabbalists, noblemen, coquettes and gypsies, whose stories he records over sixty-six days. The resulting manuscript is discovered some forty years later in a sealed ...more
Paperback, Penguin Classics, 631 pages
Published March 7th 1996 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published 1810)
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 ·  3,333 ratings  ·  349 reviews

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Sep 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Unlike many so called classic texts I have read this one doesn't seem to have dated much. At least not in its first half. The writing is thought by scholars to have begun about 1809. As Salman Rushdie says in an attached blurb "...it reads like the most brilliant modern novel." I think that might be an effect of the recent English translation offered here that seems to give the text such a contemporary feel, like a modern-day historic novel.

The premise is that in the 1760s a Walloon officer name
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
Novel in the novel, story of a story in a story told by a story of a story... Very enigmatic and trendy, or rather was both of these in the 19th century. As it is, engrossing to the maximum.
I think I read this back in student days, I only think and with out certainty not for the usual reasons, but on account of the extreme unlikeness of what I recall, a Gothic Arabian nights with a framing narrative of the discovery of the eponymous manuscript by a traveller in Spain (a soldier from Belgium), which unleashes a continual plunging into stories, bizarre and convoluted, written by a Pole in French (view spoiler) ...more
MJ Nicholls
And swaggering in at a lithe 630 pages, middleweight champion of Eastern Europe, known as the Polish Decameron, blast them vuvuzelas for The Manuscript Found in Saragossa, a Spanish picaresque novel written in French by a polymathic aristocrat and suicide. Across sixty-six nights, Walloon officer Alphonse resists the erotic lure of Islamic conversion in the form of two Islamic temptresses, and listens to a series of yarns-within-yarns-within-yarns, from such eccentrics as the geometer Velásquez, ...more
Jul 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my top 10 novels! Stories within stories, full of magic and 18th century Spain in the background.
E. G.
Jun 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Translator's Note
A Note on the Geographical Location
A Guide to the Stories

--The Manuscript Found in Saragossa
Am I allowed to fully love a book I have never finished? A twisting gothic story cycle of tales within tales(and then within tales again) Kind of an updating of 1001 arabian nights and Dante's Divine Comedy(or the Decameron or Canterbery tales)for the age of reason(?!)Filled with ghoulish horror and lots of duels, weird intrigue, kabbalah, ghosts, hidden treasures, and lots of stories. If you are a fan of Milorad Pavic's Dictionary of the Khazars, Isak Dinesen's Seven Gothic Tales, Robert Irwin' ...more
Sep 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Potocki brought a little bit of everything to this book of tales within tales within tales: gothic horror, bildungsroman, swashbuckling adventure, picaresque reminiscent of the great Lazarillo de Tormes, philosophical and theological exposition, libertine erotica, political intrigue, travelogue—in other words, a true olla podrida of styles, narrated in an arch, dry, and ultra-witty voice that has been admirably delivered from the French original by the English scholar Ian Maclean. The Manuscript ...more
Nancy Oakes
First things first: do NOT read anything that gives away spoilers about this book because, in my opinion, it will completely wreck the reading experience. This book channels down to an ending that should not be revealed at all, and you really will do yourself a disservice by knowing it ahead of time.

Believe it or not, the moment I turned the last page I wanted to read this book again. Given its 600-plus pages, that says a lot, and I ended up not rereading it, but I very easily could have. I lov
L.S. Popovich
I'm afraid I couldn't groove with this so-called Golden Oldie. I generally love Penguins, but this one failed to engage me more than half the time.

What began as an investable frame narrative with a very readable rhythm soon devolved into the riff-raffy onslaught of melodrama. Here you will find in no certain order: a surprising and adventurous compilation of old-fashioned shaggy-dog stories, woven with threads of dreamlike metafiction by campfire-scout-master-esque side characters, face-glowing
Imagine a drawer. You open it, and inside is a story. The story also has several additional drawers which, when opened, reveal additional stories with additional drawers inside them. This goes on for a while.

Filled with delicious treats, this book combines all the pleasures of a puzzle box with all the pleasures of a box a of chocolates. Best euro I ever spent. You should read it immediately.
Nov 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I tend to introduce these reviews with a story or anecdote inspired by the text in question, something, in most cases, from my own past or present life. So as I came to write about Jan Potocki’s The Manuscript Found in Saragossa I was understandably perturbed when I realised that group sex [specifically threesomes] is so central to the novel’s plot. As much as I want to engage and entertain the reader, to build a relationship with the reader, I don’t much fancy going there. Even a self-obsessed ...more
Czarny Pies
Feb 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This may be the best Polish novel ever written. Potocki was a member of one of the leading noble families of Poland. During the Napoleonic Wars he served as an officer with the French army. He appears to have taken a series of soldier's campfire tales and strung them together to create a work very similar to Antoine Galland's translation of the Tales of the Arabian nights. To this Potocki adds Masonic and Kabbalistic elements. It is a brio performance by any measure. Try to find Jerzy Haas's bri ...more
Sep 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
'The Manuscript Found in Saragossa' has been on my to-read list for at least a decade and I have no recollection of how it got there. I haven't come across any convenient library copies and most of those on eBay are heavily abridged. Finally I found an affordable second hand copy with all 600 pages. It was worth waiting for! What an absolutely delightful, hilarious, strange, philosophical, gothic novel. The labyrinthine narrative begins like this: a young Walloon officer named Alphonse is journe ...more
Apr 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
I've never been a particularly fast reader and this book was consumed in the smallest of sips until I was stuck in hospital for a week and swallowed the last 300 pages in one gulp.
Jan Potocki sounds like a character that Jan Potocki would invent: nobleman, warrior, diplomat, poet, lover, etc., etc. According to legend he shot himself with a decorative strawberry from the top of his silver sugar canister. Each day he filed away at it for a few strokes and when it was through he settled his bills
Jan 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
There's a fine film, The Saragossa Manuscripts, championed by Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, that captivated me when I saw it in 1968. But the film is a smidgeon of the book, a what awaits readers .

I concluded after two readings of this book that it is humanly impossible to grasp it on a single reading. Like many other great writers, Potocki wrote to be reread. His reader must be sufficiently entranced after a first reading want to find out what lies at its heart - indeed, to see if it even
Aug 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
From the blurbs in the front of the book: "The 100 or so stories told over 66 days are fantastic, ghostly, erotic, comic, ghoulish, philosophical and Munchausenly tall." "One of the strangest books ever written can at last take its rightful place in world literature."

This has to be one of the most uniquely-written books I have read. Totally addictive, with continued inter-locking stories that are hard to put down. The book is plot-driven, but the characters within the stories are also very inte
Jan 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Count Jan Potocki’s The Manuscript Found in Saragossa has somewhat of a cult following amongst fans of Gothic fiction. It consists of a collection of supernatural tales linked together by a complex series of frame stories, as in a nightmarish hall of mirrors. It has been called a "black Decameron". This is a really apt description, considering that practically all Gothic tropes are represented in the convoluted text: from ghosts to vampires, secret societies to violent bandits, underground passa ...more
Lee Foust
Nov 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Although I feel as though this review will almost immediately drift into minor criticisms--provoked by my living in the hectic 21st century versus the leisurely pace of an 18th century in dealing with a text as episodic, long, as intricate, and as self-involved as The Manuscript Found in Saragossa--let me first say that this is a pretty fantastic novel, both for its engrossing tales, but primarily for those very intricacies and formal narrative somersaults that I have seldom found in other texts ...more
saragossa manuscript

film only
books about books
polish root

The Saragossa Manuscript (1965)
Rekopis znaleziony w Saragossie (original title)

From IMDB - In the Napoleonic wars, an officer finds an old book that relates his grandfather's story, Alfons van Worden, captain in the Walloon guard. A man of honor and courage, he seeks the shortest route through the Sierra Morena. At an inn, the Venta Quemada, he sups with two Islamic princesses. The
Paul Dembina
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure quite how to rate this one. The sheer number of nested stories and the similarity between many of the plot lines meant that I pretty much gave up trying to remember who was who.
Still, it was quite enjoyable and for some reason (known only to myself I suspect) the resolution reminded me slightly of Illuminatus
Alex Bledsoe
Aug 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing
An absolute masterpiece, one of such insane complexity (and complex insanity) as to leave you breathless. It's also goofily funny, surprisingly erotic, and amazingly modern-sounding, especially for a novel published in 1805. The sheer breadth of its author's knowledge makes today's writers look like pedants and dilettantes. And most delightfully, just when you're sure it can't possibly pull all its disparate threads together by the end, IT DOES. It's a commitment to finish, but it's worth it in ...more
Nicholas Nilsson
Oct 22, 2022 rated it did not like it
Shelves: owned
When there’s lesbian incest demon sex on page 11, you know you’re in for a ride
Sep 13, 2008 rated it liked it
I read this for my senior seminar in college; the topic of the course was Possible Worlds. It was accompanied by a little too much Leibniz. Regardless, the sometimes exhausting tome was amusing, a little scary, and had a pleasing POINT... to those of us who love the labyrinth of literature and the idea of stories in life, as well as print.
The characters, time period, and setting are all quite interesting; the plot too, is compelling. But what makes this book GOOD is the execution of something m
Daniel Simmons
Jan 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've never tried hallucinogenic drugs, and I'm not sure I'll ever have to so long as a copy of this book is readily at hand. It's hard to pick a favorite scene -- a strong candidate is the one where a 16-year-old Jewess kabbalist-in-training kills a she-bear with a book cover (made of wood from the Ark of the Covenant, natch) and then fights off its cubs to suck on the dead bear's swollen teats for sustenance. Moments later the bear comes back to life, sort of, because it's possessed by a maybe- ...more
Mar 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
this is my third read of this in ten years. A rarity, that.
Timeless. Always enigmatic. These are overused today as hyperbolic advertisement for things like cheese-puffs and belly-button rings. This book isn't like that at all.
Maybe I should tell the story about how I found this one.

Before the internet, before I got a second computer I used to keep lists. On paper with a pen lists of news topics. Alphabetized for later much easier access I would make my lists til there was no more room on the pag
May 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Pure excellence. Traversing the intricate labyrinth of Potocki's masterpiece is a daunting challenge and will require periods rest during gestation, however the difficulty does not lie in the length of the work's passages, rather in the frequent addition of new voices, perspectives, places, dates (accurate and inaccurate) and relations that sometimes leave you wishing for a character map.

Alas, this book is greatly fulfilling -- every page of this work is guaranteed to produce amusement or provi
David McGrogan
Dec 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This bizarre book has come to obsess me over the last month or so during the course of reading it - it will I know live with me for a very long time to come. A paean to the wondrous particularism of each and every human individual; a love letter to Spain; a rumination on love, on honour, on truth, on falsity, on fatherhood, on sex, on storytelling, on men, on women, on windows and disguises and duels...tinged throughout with madness. It is no surprise at all to learn that Potocki blew his own br ...more
Apr 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is truly a strange and fun book. Written by a very eccentric Pole around the turn of the 19th century, it recounts a whole slew of frame tales set in 16th century Spain. It moves very quickly. At one point the narratives are nested 4 deep (a story within a story within a story within a story). It has Vampires and compulsive dueling, a wordless romance communicated exclusively through the making of colored inks, a calculus of morality and wisdom, and a vast conspiracy theory of European hist ...more
Jun 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
I read this a very long time ago, when I was 16. I didn't enjoy it at the time. Only later I knew what a classic I had read. Surely need to reread this one. ...more
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Jan Potocki was born into the Potocki family, an aristocratic family, that owned vast estates in Poland. He was educated in Geneva and Lausanne, served twice in the Polish Army as a captain of engineers, and spent some time on a galley as a novice Knight of Malta. He was probably a Freemason and had a strong interest in the occult.

Potocki's colorful life took him across Europe, Asia and North Afri

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