The first French edition was published posthumously in , but it was known earlier in Germany, thanks to Schiller 's partial translation, which appeared in and was retranslated into French in , as well as Mylius's complete German version of The main subject of the book is the relationship between the valet Jacques and his master, who is never named. The two are traveling to a destination the narrator leaves vague, and to dispel the boredom of the journey Jacques is compelled by his master to recount the story of his loves. However, Jacques's story is continually interrupted by other characters and various comic mishaps. Other characters in the book tell their own stories and they, too, are continually interrupted. There is even a "reader" who periodically interrupts the narrator with questions, objections, and demands for more information or detail.
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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Jacques the Fatalist by Denis Diderot. Jacques the Fatalist by Denis Diderot ,. David Coward Translator. Jacques the Fatalist is a provocative exploration of the problems of human existence, destiny, and free will.
In the introduction to this brilliant translation, David Coward explains the philosophical basis of Diderot's fascination with fate and examines the experimental and influential literary techniques that make Jacques the Fatalist a classic of the Enlightenment. Get A Copy. Paperback , Oxford World's Classics , pages. Published September 16th by Oxford University Press first published More Details Original Title.
Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Jacques the Fatalist , please sign up. See 1 question about Jacques the Fatalist…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Start your review of Jacques the Fatalist. DD: There's not much to tell.
All I know is that one day two figures on horseback appeared on the page before me, and it soon became clear that the one called Jacques he was definitely a 'Jacques' was the servant of the other. DD: Who knows what connections there are between what we've read previously and what we find on the page in front of us.
It's true that Jacques and his master seemed to go together from the beginning like Quichotte and Sancho, the one definitely couldn't exist without the other. R: Right. So you had the two characters.
What happened next? DD: Well, since they were riding along a road together, they found themselves conversing. R: So you decided to write the story in the form of a dialogue? DD: One of the characters seemed to like telling stories, and as the other seemed to be a good listener and knew how to ask leading questions, a dialogue was inevitable, I'd say.
R: Inevitable? That's funny in the context of this book. But we'll come back to that later. Right now I want to ask you about your characters' journey. You say at the beginning that it wasn't important where they had been or where they were going, but you must have had some idea where you wanted them to end up.
DD: Not at all. I just knew there were two characters who seemed to be on a journey. I trusted that one or other or both would know where they were going.
I was as much in the dark as the reader. R: Hmm. Since you've mentioned the reader, can I ask why you digressed so frequently from the story that Jacques was telling his master, and started to tell the reader your own stories, ones that were completely unrelated to Jacques' story so that the book became a series of nested stories a bit in the style of Tristram Shandy?
DD: It's like this. I took advantage of the various times that Jacques got interrupted in his story to insert some story ideas I had lying about on my desk. And Sterne's book was on my desk too, incidentally.
R: Saying you were taking advantage of the interruptions is surely a bit disingenuous—it was you who created those interruptions after all. DD: Such as when Jacques' horse took off across a field?
That horse had a mind of his own, you know. Even Jacques couldn't control him—and we all know how stubborn Jacques was. R: Oh, yes, I very much enjoyed watching how well Jacques resisted his master's efforts to get him to continue the story of his love life when he didn't feel like talking. He really was a very stubborn character. But you could have made him continue, couldn't you? Why didn't you? DD: As I say, he gave me good opportunities to use material I had lying about and hadn't yet found a use for.
R: And then you decided to make Jacques and his master more or less switch roles. Why did you do that? DD: Oh well, that switch happened after the story-telling session in the hostelry, and had little to do with me. Quite a bit to do with la Dive Bouteille , I'd imagine. If the hostel keeper's servant would keep bringing bottles up from the cellar, what could I do? A good bottle of wine wins over all obstacles. R: Oh, yes, didn't Jacques have a very Rabelaisian session in that tavern!
I noticed that he took advantage of every tiny pause in the hostel keeper's story to order another bottle until he became completely groggified! I enjoyed that section a lot—and I even kept Jacques company with a glass or two of my own. But it did seem to take a long time for the effects of Jacques' drinking session to wear off, and then when they set out again on their journey, the master had to start telling the story of his own love-life instead!
DD: Were you surprised at that? R: Yes, I think I was, as I hadn't imagined any 'past' for him at all. He was just Jacques' master, and all I knew about him was that he often consulted his pocket watch and invariably took a pinch of snuff right afterwards. But then, as he began to tell the story of his relationship with Agathe, he began to take shape as a character, and I was reminded once again of how much I love stories.
I became so involved in his adventures that I was frustrated when there were interruptions, just as Jacques was. And I even wanted to interrupt the stories myself from time to time with warnings similar to the ones Jacques' began to give, but I soon learned to stay quiet following Jacques example and just hoped the master would overcome his trials without our help.
And then, near the end, I felt myself to be just as much the master's dupe as Jacques seemed to be, but I got through that bit, again by following Jacques' example, and was reconciled to the outcome. But hold on, it seems that I've been rattling on for too long instead of getting you to talk.
That wasn't how this interview was supposed to go! R: Well played, Mr Diderot. It seems I've become trapped in your narrative net just as Jacques and his master were, and I dare say it was inevitable from the beginning how this interview would end.
DD: As Jacques would say, It was written in advance View all 50 comments. Fionnuala It seems you really were destined to read it, David. After all, even if Carlos Fuentes and me were both prompting you, it might well have sat on the pi It seems you really were destined to read it, David. After all, even if Carlos Fuentes and me were both prompting you, it might well have sat on the pile unopened like many others! I'll be interested to see what you think of Sterne's book—especially as you are reading it after this one and after Don Quijote.
I read it before them both, and I'm now wondering how the book would appear to me if I read it after them—as in Borges's Pierre Menard story which I read the other day The first French edition was published posthumously in , but it was known earlier in Germany, thanks to Goethe's partial translation, which appeared in and was retranslated into French in , as well as Mylius's complete German version of The main subject of the book is the relationship between the valet Jacques and his master, who is never named.
The two are traveling to a destination the narrator leaves vague, and to dispel the boredom of the journey Jacques is compelled by his master to recount the story of his loves. However, Jacques's story is continually interrupted by other characters and various comic mishaps.
Jacques the Fatalist and His Master
Denis Diderot was among the greatest writers of the Enlightenment, and in Jacques the Fatalist he brilliantly challenged the artificialities of conventional French fiction of his age. Riding through France with his master, the servant Jacques appears to act as though he is truly free in a world of dizzying variety and unpredictability. Characters emerge and disappear as the pair travel across the country, and tales begin and are submerged by greater stories, to reveal a panoramic view of eighteenth-century society. But while Jacques seems to choose his own path, he remains convinced of one philosophical belief: that every decision he makes, however whimsical, is wholly predetermined. Brilliantly original in style, it is one of the greatest precursors to post-modern literature. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. Denis Diderot was born at Langres in eastern France in , the son of a master cutler.
Jacques the Fatalist
Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book.