Diderot's "Jacques the Fatalist" | A Reading Group with Ken Knabb

This week Ken Knabb commences discussion of Denis Diderot's novel, Jacques the Fatalist.

The group will be meeting in the University Press Bookstore (2430 Bancroft in Berkeley) every other Sunday at 4:30-7:00 P.M. for four meetings, through September 23rd.

Afterwards we'll move on to The Life of Samuel Johnson the next work in our series.*

Like Sterne's Tristram Shandy, a source that Diderot uses for his own story, Jacques the Fatalist is a novel of interruptions. As the protagonist, a valet, travels with his employer, many incidents interfere with Jacques's attempt to comply with his boss's voyeuristic directive to entertain the boss with accounts of Jacques love life. In the process, we hear the stories many other characters have to tell of themselves.

Like Voltaire's character, Dr. Pangloss, Diderot's Jacques is victim to a sweeping idée fixée. In his case, the notion that everything that happens is determined, recorded in heaven from eternity and revealed in human events as the scroll is unrolled, a bit at a time. Although Diderot's narrative raises quasi-religious questions of philosophical import, he makes no polemic attempt to resolve them.

Participation is free, but donations of $10 or so per meeting are suggested to help support the bookstore, which provides us with a pleasant meeting space and complimentary wine and snacks.

*Jacques the Fatalist is part of an ongoing series, led by Ken Knabb and hosted by the University Press Books store, in which we have explored these classic works: Cervantes’s Don Quixote, Montaigne’s Essays, Rabelais’s Gargantua and Pantagruel, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Madame de Lafayette's The Princesse de Clèves, Defoe’s Moll Flanders, Fielding’s Tom Jones, and Sterne’s Tristram Shandy. After Jacques the Fatalist the group will read Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson.

Event date: 
Sunday, July 22, 2018 - 4:30pm to 7:00pm
Event address: 
2430 Bancroft Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
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