Read Jacques the Fatalist by Denis Diderot Free Online
Book Title: Jacques the Fatalist|
The author of the book: Denis Diderot
Edition: Oxford University Press
Date of issue: September 16th 1999
ISBN 13: 9780192838742
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 381 KB
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Reader ratings: 3.6
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Master: Do you pray?
Master: And what do you say?
Jacques: I say: "Thou who mad'st the Great Scroll, whatever Thou art, Thou whose finger hast traced the Writing Up Above, Thou hast known for all time what I needed, Thy will be done. Amen."
Master: Don't you think you would do just as well if you shut up?
It is often too easy for me to forget that high humor and religious cynicism are not new developments within the realm of published fiction. On top of that, as much as we readers here about "pomo trickery" and meta-humor, these terms--often used as insults akin to calling someone "trendy"--are generally associated with literature no more than a century old. Well, to all you pomos and popomos: allow me to introduce you to Denis Diderot. He is your metatastic brother from another great-great-great-great-great-grandmother. At some point before his death in 1784, he composed Jacques the Fatalist (in some editions titled Jacques the Fatalist and His Master, an arguably better name because of the fact that it directly references the text's play on character power dynamics). 1784. Remember that.
This "novel", written in the stage play style seen above combined with frequent asides by an omniscient, brassy narrator, tells the story of real-life-storytelling as depicted in written form. Diderot breaks down the common motifs of the stock "novel", holding its cliches in one hand and the reality of conversing with other human beings in the other. The dialogue is the same interrupted, rambling, endless swirl of words that we tend to find in actual attempts at expressing ourselves verbally either one-on-one or in groups. Therefore, stories are begun and left unfinished, people are cut off, corrected, and reprimanded, and plot possibilities are dangled in front of the reader and left to his or her own particular devices, all while our playful, snarky narrator reminds us that there is no way we can know for a fact one way or another if he is being truthful, so why put stock in him or the story/stories in the first place? The book constantly re-references, repeats, mirrors/distorts, and criticizes itself in a way that calls to question all creative interpretations of reality due--amongst other things--to the biases reader, storyteller, and subject bring into the telephone game that is relaying information in a meaningful way. And it is amazingly funny while doing so. I would be willing to bet my lunch money that Charlie Kaufman is a huuuuge Diderot fan.
To go back to my earlier point...if you are religiously inclined, I would stay away from this book unless you are of a mind to read eloquently expressed, harshly stated opinions which conflict with your own. It is no secret that Diderot was a spiteful sort about organized religion, and he uses Jacques and his insistence on Predestination as means to excuse his debauchery (along with every other spiritual figure in the story, each of which is almost more corrupt than basically every non-religious character within this fictional realm) as a means to highlight the hypocrisy, escapism, and general slovenliness he saw in default spiritual beliefs. Proceed with caution, as this one does bite.
This story was a bit of an awakening for me. It may be the oldest piece of literature I have read which embraced meta-humor to such an extreme. As I previously stated, I tend to let myself think that this sort of thing is a new-ish development, a product of information over-saturation or something. However, Jacques the Fatalist is one of the most self-aware, admittedly (even brazenly) self-critical, and quite frankly hilarious novels about novel writing and reading that I have ever read. It constantly stops to reflect on itself, jarring you with by repeatedly pointing out that this is not an escape, this is not a reality, this is a story about stories within stories within stories, and you are reading it right now. The tangled mess that it eventually becomes reminded me in many ways of THIS bit of genius.
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Read information about the authorDenis Diderot was a French philosopher, art critic, and writer. He was a prominent persona during the Enlightenment and is best known for serving as co-founder and chief editor of and contributor to the Encyclopédie.
Diderot also contributed to literature, notably with Jacques le fataliste et son maître (Jacques the Fatalist and his Master), which emulated Laurence Sterne in challenging conventions regarding novels and their structure and content, while also examining philosophical ideas about free will. Diderot is also known as the author of the dialogue, Le Neveu de Rameau (Rameau's Nephew), upon which many articles and sermons about consumer desire have been based. His articles included many topics of the Enlightenment.
As a philosopher Diderot speculated on free will and held a completely materialistic view of the universe; he suggested all human behavior is determined by heredity. He therefore warned his fellow philosophers against an overemphasis on mathematics and against the blind optimism that sees in the growth of physical knowledge an automatic social and human progress. He rejected the Idea of Progress. In his opinion, the aim of progressing through technology was doomed to fail. He founded his philosophy on experiment and the study of probabilities. He wrote several articles and supplements concerning gambling, mortality rates, and inoculation against smallpox for the Encyclopédie. There he discreetly but firmly refuted d'Alembert's technical errors and personal positions on probability.
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