Saturday, March 8, 2014

Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice

Written by: James Branch Cabell

First line: It is a tale which they narrate in Poictesme, saying: In the old days lived a pawnbroker named Jurgen; but what his wife called him was very often much worse than that.

Why you should read this book: In this extremely irreverent allegory, a middle aged pawnbroker/poet/philosopher with a shrewish wife has a little sympathy for the devil and the devil kindly repays him by removing his greatest burden, which doesn't much trouble Jurgen until his in-laws forcibly suggest that the manly thing to do would be to get his wife back. Over the course of a year, Jurgen, now clad in a centaur's magical shirt and wearing the comely body of his twenty-one-year-old self, bounces around a mythical landscape seducing various women but never finding anything like whatever it is he's looking for, probably because he's not himself certain what it is he needs. Across Greek and Arthurian legend, through heaven and hell, and in the company of all sorts of gods and goddesses, Jurgen deals fairly with those he meets and follows the customs of various lands without ever embracing anything until the story's end, when, finally, he comes to understand a little bit about life, love, beauty, and destiny.

 Why you shouldn't read this book: It's all about sex, except there's no actual sex in it.

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