The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy Gentleman Author:Laurence Sterne A classic of English literature, "Tristram Shandy" was published in nine volumes between 1759 and 1767, at a time when the English novel was just beginning to acquire its distinguishing features thanks to Sterne's contemporaries, Henry Fielding and Samuel Richardson. Sterne borrowed some of his techniques from Rabelais, and some of his ideas fro... more »m Robert Burton and John Locke. The bulk of this "novel," however, attests to a rare creative faculty capable of parodying much of what would become the novelistic conventions of the 18th and 19th centuries, while at the same time broadening and exploring territory that has been rediscovered only in the 20th-century.
Tristram Shandy ("shandy" meaning "crack-brained, half-crazy") narrates his own genesis and development, beginning with the moment of his conception -- although his digressions prevent him from taking his evolution much beyond the age of two. Through his eyes we meet his father, Walter, who is eloquent, animated, and equally fond of discursive ventures into philosophy, history, medicine, and science, all at a breakneck pace; his uncle Toby, whose main distractions are his own accounts of military strategies which he acts out with his servant Corporal Trim; the confused Mrs. Shandy; the polemical and hasty parson, Yorick; the ignorant physician, Dr. Slop; and the intractable household servant, Obadiah.
Stern's abiding loyalty to the associative nature of ideas, to immediacy, has been singled out by critics as an early form of the stream-of-consciousness technique. The countless examples of Stern's stylistic innovations -- approximating the human mind's tendency to disorder and reassemble reality, avoiding any consistent plot or conclusion, eschewing moralistic or cautionary messages, offering rows of various typefaces, blank pages, and diagrams in place of conventional text -- are proof that "Tristram Shandy", flying in the face of novelistic conventions, was centuries ahead of its time. Introduction by Christopher Ricks.« less