Monday, July 16, 2007

The Potocki Code

I came across this description of Jan Potocki's The Manuscript Found in Saragossa at the website of a new independent bookstore in Bath, Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights

Polish/French writing - Stories within stories within stories etc. This 18th century frame tale to end all frame tales is structured like a more complex Arabian Nights and is narrated in styles from Poe gothic/horror, through Boccaccio erotic, via Dumas adventure, incorporating Eco semiotic, wrapped in Borges surrealist, inside a Cervantes pastoral-picaresque setting.

There really is nothing else like it. Expand your horizons!

I'd never heard of this book. My first thought, of course, is This sounds GREAT! And my second thought is: what exactly is Polish/French writing? Is it translated from Polish (which I read slowly and painfully, with a dictionary that now happens to be in storage) or French (which I read with aplomb)? I hunt around online and discover that it was written in French, with copies on starting at the very reasonable price of 100 euros. I then check StaBiKat, the catalogue of the Staatsbibliothek; they have both the 1804 and 1810 editions available for loan!

I'm very very excited.

There's an interview of Nic Bottomley, co-founder of Mr B's, in the Guardian, here.


Anonymous said...

From a Last Samurai Fan:

Potocki's book is weird in all the ways that the word weird means (as it does when you're young) delightful, fantastic, and existence-improving. A former student to whom I'd given it as a gift emailed me the same day as your post, saying thank you thank you thank you.

yasviridov said...

Though Potocki's The Manuscript was written in French the full french version never was found. In 1847 the polish version was published (its translator was the last who saw full french text). So - now we have sort of a polish/french cross.

Language said...

I've never read the book, but I've wanted to ever since I first saw the movie, which is amazing.