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The Manuscript Found in Saragossa

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4.15  ·  Rating details ·  2,396 ratings  ·  219 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 1804)
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Average rating 4.15  · 
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 ·  2,396 ratings  ·  219 reviews


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Amalia Gavea
Without pretentious pseudo-philosophies and further ado, this book is one of the best examples of Historical Fiction ever produced, in all its weird glory, beauty and fascination. History, Myths, Apocrypha, Religion,Philosophy....you name it.
William2
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
...more
☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ⚡ϟ⚡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.
Jan-Maat
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, with his algebraic ...more
Beata
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.
Adam
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
Szplug
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 Found in Saragossa, discovered by a French offi ...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
...more
Nicole
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.
[P]
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 blabbe ...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
Drew
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
...more
Steve
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 has a heart, o
...more
Cheryl
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
...more
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
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 of this type. ...more
Tim Pendry

This is an overrated picaresque 'classic' from very early in the nineteenth century. It has its moments of genuine surprise and horror - indeed eroticism - but it is also overwrought, messy and confused.

Brian Stableford has produced a solid piece of academic background for this edition. We are really not very sure of the book's origin. Is it Polish or French and, if Polish, which Potocki wrote it?

There have been great cultural claims for this book - including claims of it
...more
Cailin
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
...more
Bettie
saragossa manuscript



1809
film only
translation
books about books
winter
napoleonic
polish root
gothic
adventure
translation



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
...more
Joseph
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 passages to ha ...more
Ned
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
...more
Michael
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
...more
James
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
Santiago Ortiz
Aug 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classic, novel
Awsesome, sui generis, book, its structure and social landscape is complex and intrincate; let me just share some quotes:

"All the gypsy’s stories begin in a simple enough way and you think you can already predict the end. But things turn out quite differently. The first story engenders the second, from which a third is born, and so on, like periodic fractions resulting from certain divisions which can be indefinitely prolonged. In mathematics there are several ways of bringing certai
...more
Edward
Jun 04, 2015 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Introduction
Translator's Note
A Note on the Geographical Location
Glossary
A Guide to the Stories


--The Manuscript Found in Saragossa
Kobe Bryant
Nov 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book is about stories, stories within stories and stories within stories within stories just like the hit movie Inception by Christopher Nolan
Karen
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: my-nightstand
Readers have loved this book for almost three hundred years (as well as being intrigued by the method of the author's suicide....look it up) but I finally abandoned it. When even a classic of the genre doesn't appeal, then the conclusion is that it isn't the genre for me and I should move on to another book in my ' to read' queue. Gothic fans, vampire tale lovers...give it a try.
Anna
Dec 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's brilliant, fun, full of unexpected plot twists and it reads like a mixture of Salman Rushdie, Catherynne M. Valente and classic 19th century horror stories. I can't believe it took me over 10 years to give it a chance!
Al Bità
Mar 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Almost any description of this work is unjust: one is forced to tell only about some of the many elements it contains without really exhausting its complexity. And even that statement is misleading. I think, perhaps, the 'simplest' description is to call it a kind of literary snapshot of Spain set in the mid-18th century.

It achieves this by imposing a strict framework: 66 days of travelling, in which the 'main hero' (who becomes significantly less central to the work as it progresses
...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 Nort
...more
“Words strike the air and the mind, they act on the senses and on the soul.” 7 likes
“It is not science which leads to unbelief but rather ignorance. The ignorant man thinks he understands something provided that he sees it every day. The natural philosopher walks amid enigmas, always striving to understand and always half-understanding. He learns to believe what he does not understand, and that is a step on the road to faith.” 5 likes
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