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Portuguese Irregular Verbs

(Portuguese Irregular Verbs #1)

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  7,922 ratings  ·  947 reviews
Professor Dr. von Igelfeld Entertainment- Book 1

The Professor Dr. von Igelfeld Entertainment series slyly skewers academia, chronicling the comic misadventures of the endearingly awkward Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld, and his long-suffering colleagues at the Institute of Romantic Philology in Germany.
Readers who fell in love with Precious Ramotswe, proprietor o
Hardcover, Large Print, 153 pages
Published January 1st 2006 by Random House Large Print Publishing (first published 2003)
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Jason Koivu
Nov 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Very witty stuff! Almost Wodehousian. Portuguese Irregular Verbs follows an uptight German Romance languages professor struggling for the respect he feels is owed him and his 1000+ page book on Portuguese irregular verbs. If you like your wordplay humor in the dry British style with a light dash of slapstick and a touch of the absurd, this is the little slice of heaven pie you've been looking for! If you have a childish love of poking fun at pompous Germans as I do, well then, have another slice ...more
Sally Linford
Mar 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I gave this book 5 stars based on how hard I laughed while reading--actually, listening. I mention the listening, because I am convinced that listening is the key to enjoying this pithy little book. It it one the wittiest treats I've ever read, and I was stunned when most of my book club rejected it! They were shocked at the very small contingent of admirers in the group who found it so hilarious.

I think it is just erudite enough that regular chaps like me need the benefit of the excellent reade
Apr 15, 2008 rated it liked it
I really don't know what to do with these books, which are intermittantly hilarious, but so atrociously muddled in plot that they are disatisfying. Perhaps this is the point--they are post-modern reminders that life doesn't happen within a narrative arc, but to my fairly modernist mind, this is only annoying. Still the critique of academia is sharp and funny, if a little depressing. ...more
This book is really a collection of unconnected short stories, and is rather light on plot. I enjoyed it, but I won't pursue other books in this series. I do however look forward to reading some of Alexander McAll Smith's other books.

That's what I wrote yesterday.

Today I've changed my mind. In a strange way I've become quite fond of Professor Von Igelfeld. He's rather like the relative who embarrasses you every time you see him, but you miss him when he's not there. Last night I felt a little
Mar 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Bonfire of the Academic Vanities, this novel is hilarious, witty and sly beyond belief! Of all McCall-Smith's characters in all his MANY books, his portraits of this German academic, Professor Moritz-Maria von Ingelfeld, and his scholarly-impaired peers are his finest! It is laugh-out-loud amusement from beginning to end. Just when you think he can't get more outrageous, he outdoes himself. Lady detectives and Scottish philosophy journal editors don't come close to the careful-tuning and interpl ...more
Apr 06, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

For me this book falls into an ever-increasing cache of books that I (technically) enjoyed but would have a real difficult time recommending them to anyone.

It's kind of like golf: It's incredibly slow and there are a lot of features that you'll miss if you're not paying close attention for them. But that's what golf is. It's not designed to blow your socks off with monster-truck-smashing action (SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY!); it's intended to appeal to its niche audience.

I have yet to read anything b
Peter Tillman
Apr 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reread-list, humor
Very amusing series. I liked all four. Just added to the "reread sometime" list, as it's been a few years.
Jennifer's is the review to read:
May 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humour
Alexander McCall Smith’s Portuguese Irregular Verbs is very short and very funny. It follows a German professor of philology and some of his colleagues as they engage in that peculiar sport of academic infighting in the exclusive world of international conferences. This is not subtle humour. The core jokes are about stereotypes, funny exactly because they are spot on.

There is a sweet innocence about the hapless professors. Take for example, their decision to use the hotel tennis court, although
Nola Lorraine
Professor von Igelfeld has written the seminal book on 'Portuguese Irregular Verbs', yet hasn't received the acknowledgement he deserves. Only a handful of copies have been sold and the hundreds of remaining copies are in danger of being bought by someone who wants to use the covers to make furniture. Add to that a senior colleague who steals his work, a landlady who tosses him out of her house after reading his translation of antiquated Irish, an Indian guru who predicts a plot against him, a s ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jul 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
I like the simplicity,
the kindness, the gentleness,
the light humor, and the respect
the author pays to each
character in this story. Smith,
author of the No. 1 Ladies'
Detective series, is not to
everyone's liking. A friend,
who I loaned one of the No. 1
series books, was irritated
with the books. "Nothing happens,"
she complained. I know that is
true. But somehow it suits me.


A fast, fun little read -- I found Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld's misadventures extremely disconcerting, which (I imagine) is the entire point of the thing. This is arranged with each chapter being a different vignette in Igelfeld's life, each just a few pages long. I'm not sure if I'll visit the character again in one of his other books, but I may -- the stories have a certain charm, although a little goes a long way.
Jan 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book was a delight. I was in somewhat of a funk before starting it, but by the time I got to Chapter 2, I was already feeling a lot lighter and happier. Alexander McCall Smith doesn't write capital-L "Literature," but that's ok because, despite being a pretty picky/high-standards reader, I don't demand every book I read to be worthy of discussion in an English class; this one is just pure fun.

Portuguese Irregular Verbs is a biting comedy along the lines of the Jeeves & Wooster series by P.
Kelly H. (Maybedog)
Although supposedly a novel, it's really a bunch of loosely strung together short stories. This was nothing like Lady's Own Detective Agency, which is delightful. The humor in the book was just too subtle for me. There were a few funny parts but mostly it just seemed like a dork of a guy whose life has very little strife, making tiny things into huge things. It did feel very German, though, which was good.

I also found it really irritating when characters said something in another language but it
Margo Brooks
Nov 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Audiobook. A real giggle-fest for academics. The life and times of Professor Doctor Moritz-Maria van Igelfeld and his German colleagues is hillarious because it is so close to the truth of academia. Written by the author of the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith translates his humor and perception to a completely different continent and personalities. Definately worth a read if you are overeducated, but don't take yourself too seriously. ...more
Carol Bakker
I judge all McCall Smith characters by Mma Ramotswe of the No. 1 Ladies Detective series. If that were my sole standard, I'd likely give this two stars: it was OK. I've begun this books several times and always failed to engage. Listening on a four mile hike helped. Honestly, the audio was a big help.

It is funny. It is satire. It is short. AMS pokes fun at academics in that understated AMS way. I know people like von Igelfeld. People who think you can learn tennis from a book of rules. People w
Apr 14, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A solid three stars for this short and modestly amusing book. In a series of loosely related episodes, Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria Von Igelfeld moves from small triumphs to minor defeats and embarrassments and back again. His ponderings, which tend to focus on small professional rivalries, but sometimes wander into the theological and ontological, are both very plausible and mildly repellent. Igelfeld is fussy, often petty, and occasionally vindictive. His small intrigues almost invariably go wro ...more
Hákon Gunnarsson
I like this series about the German professor Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld who has made his mark on the world with the great scolaly work, Portuguese Irregular Verbs which sold some 200 copies when it was published. There is a bit of Frasier in him, as well as a bit of Wodehousian humor.

The first book is his back story, student years, and so on. He is well known in the world of philology scholars, but not so much beyond that. But he is so pompous that it is completely certain that he knows the who
Feb 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
The book was funny due to its satire of academics. The obscurity of Portugese Irregular Verbs could certainly be matched by the obscurity of my own Ph.D. topic.
Jan 09, 2022 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Funny, charming, and did I mention funny? Loved the writing style (quite similar to the no 1 ladies detective agency). Not the best book I've ever read but love Professor Moritz Maria von Igelfeld :) such a lovely book!! ...more
There doesn't seem to be much of a point to Alexander McCall Smith's "Portuguese Irregular Verbs." In theory, it's supposed to be a humourous book. In reality, except for an occasional odd circumstance, it's not funny at all. Also, there's no real story here. Instead, we're treated to eight almost entirely unrelated vignettes showing us bits and pieces from an obscure academic's meaningless life. I guess this could have been almost tolerable, except for the first and last vignettes. The first is ...more
Kristi Lamont
Feb 18, 2019 rated it liked it
I am such a fan of Alexander McCall Smith. I believe he could probably give the phone book a nice treatment and I would enjoy reading that (wait, are there still "phone books"?). I had a good time both being entertained by and commiserating with Professor Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld of the Institute of Romance Philology, and look forward to reading the other two books in this short series thanks to my neighbor, who recommended it. (The public library here has only the first one; the neighbor le ...more
Peter Herrmann
Jul 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is a wonderful and humorous caricature of a pedantic, formal, well-meaning, scholar, who never seems to fully understand how the world (i.e., people) really work(s), and never achieves the thing in life most important to him: respect. In every interpersonal situation he seems to get the short end of the stick. The author creates some highly imaginative situations in each chapter. The humor isn't only re Dr. Igelfeld; the 'Germanic' personality, and, through Dr Igelfeld's travels, the ' ...more
Aug 04, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
An odd book. I've loved both the #1 Ladies Detective Agency and the Sunday Philosophers Club series, but this one left me cold, largely because the protagonist is not simply unlikeable but also not terribly interesting. Moreover, the milieu in which he operates seems antiquated, more pre-WW II than post-war, and the Venice section at the end was just strange. There were McCall Smith's characteristic flashes of wit ("Scallopini alla Marie Curie"!) but the whole of the book didn't add up to much. ...more
Feb 15, 2013 rated it liked it
A fun and simple read that reminds us how ridiculous it is to be human sometimes. Though most of Dr. von Igelfeld's thoughts are not to be taken seriously, I loved this particular paragraph about the evolution of language: "The crudities of the modern world were simplifying or even destroying linguistic subtleties...Where previously there might have been four adjectives to describe a favoured hill, or the scent of new-mown hay, or the action of threading the warp of a loom, now there would only ...more
Jul 27, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From the author of the #1 Ladies Detective Series, this is the story of Professor Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld and his adventures through Europe. The only word to describe this book is "absurd." Each chapter is a self-contained story about Professor Igelfeld, author of the tome Portuguese Irregular Verbs. He is convinced of his genius and forever getting himself into uncomfortable situations caused by his over-inflated sense of importance. It is silly and ridiculous, but also a lot of fun. There ...more
Camelia Rose
This is the first but the second book I read in the series. It is where the self-important Professor von Igelfeld started. I must agree with another reviewer - the book is intermittently hilarious but one must not expect too much from the plot. The main character is funny and pitiful. I am a bit disappointed, for I think the second book, Finer Points of Sausage Dogs, is better and funnier.
Dec 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Alexander McCall Smith has a pleasing style all his own that allows him to get away with half-developed story ideas that don't really go anywhere. This book is as delightful as the rest but I'm not really sure why. ...more
Sylvain Reynard
AM Smith is a very funny writer in a dry, understated way. His writings about the German Professor of Portuguese Irregular Verbs is extremely witty and laugh out loud funny. Highly recommended.
Nov 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: novellas
Quite funny. 3.5 stars. Academic pomposity is skewered in this novella about 3 German philologists. Clever and absurd.
Nathan Albright
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: challenge-2020
Spoiler alert:  This book isn't actually about Portuguese irregular verbs.  One of the odd things that happens when one simply puts on hold all the books in one's library system that are about the Portuguese language without reading too closely into the summary material of said books is that one gets books that are both very personally relevant and not relevant at all to the subject matter one is looking for.  This book, by the author of "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series, centers on a ...more
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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

Other books in the series

Portuguese Irregular Verbs (5 books)
  • 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)
  • Your Inner Hedgehog (Portuguese Irregular Verbs, #5)

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“He had been thinking of how landscape moulds a language. It was impossible to imagine these hills giving forth anything but the soft syllables of Irish, just as only certain forms of German could be spoken on the high crags of Europe; or Dutch in the muddy, guttural, phlegmish lowlands.” 31 likes
“Professor Dr Moritz-Maria Von Igelfeld often reflected on how fortunate he was to be exactly who he was, and nobody else. When one paused to think who one might have been had the accident of birth not happened precisely as it did, then, well, one could be quite frankly appalled.” 8 likes
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