Monday, November 09, 2015

Alain René Le Sage: The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane

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When Phyllis Rose started reading her "Shelf," there was a tome on her shelf that was so long and tedious that she almost gave up: 'The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane.' She kept reading it, though, because of one rule or another that she had made for herself, and eventually, it became her favorite book: she read it over and over, trying out various translations of Alain René Le Sage's 1715-1735 work. She liked it so much that it became the only book from her shelf that I put on my list.

I felt the same way about the book when I started: tedious, boring, out of touch. I put it down and forgot about it till it was pretty much due back at the library. Then I fell in love with it. The book is something like 700 pages long and tiny tiny little print on big pages. And then I got an email that I had accrued $115 in fines. I didn't actually know that was a thing- $115 in fines! After speaking to the librarian, I found out that even if I returned the book, I couldn't renew it. So, after falling in love with the book, I've returned it and not even finished it. 500 pages into the thing, I will never know what happened to Gil Blas! (Well, I will, but not with my inter-library-loan'ed copy.) But in good news, my fees were waived when I returned it, so there's that.

About the book: I guess that in the 1700s (I learned this from Rose), there was a formula for writing books. In fact, Gil Blas is not terribly dissimilar to the style of Dumas- anecdote after anecdote loosely strung together by headings, probably due to the fact that the books were initially serialized. Gil Blas was a young dude in Spain who was born, left his family and went on a series of adventures and misadventures. I can't tell you what eventually happened to him, but I can tell you that along the way he met some men and women and they get to tell their stories, too, often in first person. At various points gets captured by thieves, becomes a thief, gets away from the thieves, saves a lady in distress, works for nice guys, works for bad guys, falls in love, falls out of love, serves as the middle man, etc. His friends tell their stories, the ladies he runs into tell their stories, and on and on. I can't explain it, but once you get into the rhythm of this book, it's really hard to put down. Well, it's very easy to put down if you're reading the giant hardback version that I got at the library, but, you know what I mean. Recommended, if you're willing to try something completely different.


thb said...

$115??????? HOW LATE WAS SHE????????? FORTY FIVE MINUTES!!!!!!!!!!!!