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am 14. Dezember 2015
One digression follows the next. If you want action and adventure, this is the wrong book for you. If you like digressions, philosophising about society, detailed character analysis etc, you might actually enjoy reading this. Just remember: it is a long and windy road...
Also: this once I would advice you to buy the printed version, not the kindle version,as the author included some unusual elements (like a black page) which represent /mirror something that happened in the book, which is quite fun.Sadly, I didn't get that in the kindle version.
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am 7. Juni 2014
It is only the first four volumes of the book in this free Kindle version. I do not recommend it. Useless.
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am 24. April 2000
I first picked up Tristram Shandy when I was about 16. I knew nothing about it except that it was a Classic and therefore probably very boring. I was a big Kathy Acker fan at the time (still am, 14 years later) and liked the way she littered her books with strange pictures and diagrams. Imagine my shock on finding that Sterne had been doing the same stuff in the 1760s.
Tristram Shandy is one of the earliest so-called novels in the English language, but it's probably the most astoundingly innovative work of fiction ever written. When a character dies, there's a black page. When Sterne wants to demonstrate the randomness of life, there's a marbled page (marbling being a random process in the original edition - the point is now lost in mass-market paperbacks). When a character makes a gesture with his stick, there's an extravagant scribble. I had assumed, in my Teen Ignorance, that your typical Penguin Classic was a sturdy but boring narrative about supposedly real people doing this and that at interminable length. The brilliance of Tristram Shandy is that Sterne displays totally credible (if utterly daft) characters in a proto-Dickensian manner, while at the same time asserting the material character of the book in your hand.
I couldn't get academic about this book even if I wanted to. It's the most completely mad novel I've ever read. It's infuriating, yes, because Sterne is so good at the two things he's doing: telling a good story with living characters, and reminding you in his smirking whisper that it's only a story and that you're reading it in a book.
This edition is as up-to-date as they get, and besides having comprehensive and very useful notes (Sterne is big into the tradition of Learned Wit, and many of his allusions can be a tad obscure without a modern scholar explaining them) it includes the excellent introductory essay by Christopher Ricks, carried over from the earlier (1967) Penguin edition. The UK price is three quid; it seems almost indecent that such a stunning performance can be had for so little.
Dr Johnson famously remarked (in 1776) "Nothing odd will do long. 'Tristram Shandy' did not last." Almost a quarter of a millennium later, it's still there, tongue thrust firmly into cheek. It's worth the whole of Fielding, Smollett and Richardson put together, in my opinion.
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"Tristram Shandy", veröffentlich in den Jahren 1759-1767, wird oftmals als postmoderner Roman bezeichnet. Ob das stimmt oder nicht mag jeder für sich entscheiden. Was aber auf jeden Fall zutrifft ist, dass das Buch von Laurence Sterne gar nichts, aber wirklich auch gar nichts, mit den Romanen seiner Zeitgenossen gemeinsam hat.
Der Roman, in der Ich-Erzählsituation mit Tristram als Erzähler geschrieben, beginnt mit der Zeugung des Protagonisten. Tristram führt die Missstände, die ihm in seinem Leben widerfahren werden auf die Tatsache zurück, dass seine Mutter seinen Vater "Pray my dear, have you not forgot to wind up the clock?" fragt, gerade als dieser seinen Lendensaft zwecks Befruchtung Richtung Eizelle sendet.
Tristram schafft es dann auch nicht bis vor Kapitel fünf, die Hälfte des Roman ist mittlerweile vorüber, geboren zu werden und das Buch endet fünf Jahre vor der Geburt des Protagonisten. Dies liegt vor allem an seinem Hang sich permanent selbst zu unterbrechen.
Höhepunkt ist ein auf Seite 52 begonnener Satz, der erst 28 Seiten später beendet wird, da Tristram vorher unbedingt noch ein paar wichtige Informationen loswerden muss, die zum Verständnis dieses Satzes wohl essentiell wichtig sind.

Weiteres wichtiges Element des Romans ist das Bewußtsein des Erzählers über die Unzulänglichkeiten des Mittels der Sprache (dies ist einer der Gründe dafür, warum "Tristram Shandy" oft als postmodern bezeichnet wird).
So sieht sieht sich Tristram nicht in der Lage den Tod eines Freundes adäquat zu beschreiben. Stattdessen fügt er einfach zwei schwarze Seiten in seine Erzählung mit ein (S. 29+30).
Außerdem sieht er sich ebenfalls nicht in der Lage, eine schöne Frau mit Worten darzustellen. Deshalb fügt er einfach eine leere Seite mit ein, damit der Leser sich, im wahrsten Sinne des Wortes, selber ein Bild machen kann (S. 389).
Schließlich versucht Trirtram dem Leser seine Art des Erzählens zu erläutern, indem er ein paare wirre Linien zeichnet, die den Gang des Plotes darstellen sollen (S. 391). Dieses metanarrative Element wird im übrigen auch des öfteren als Beweis dafür herrangezogen, dass es sich bei "Tristram Shandy" um einen frühen Vertreter der Postmoderne handelt.

Fazit: Leser, die von Defoe und Fielding begeistert sind, werden diesen Roman wahrscheinlich nach wenigen Seiten auf dem Scheiterhaufen verbrennen. Diejenigen jedoch, die es unkonventionell und abgefahren mögen, werden "Tristram Shandy" lieben.
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am 28. Juni 2005
Der Tristram war eine Überraschung. "Ein Roman aus dem 18. Jahrhundert, konnte mich das wirklich ansprechen?", näherte ich mich eher zweifelnd diesem Werk. Aber schon die ersten Sätze waren so unterhaltsam, dass ich das Buch nicht mehr weglegen wollte. Ich habe es zuerst im Original und danach nochmals in deutscher Übersetzung gelesen, um nur ja nichts zu verpassen. Das Schreiben diese Rezension gestaltet sich jedoch sehr schwierig. Ich weiß gar nicht wo ich anfangen soll. Eine Inhaltsangabe ist nicht zielführend, die Handlung ließe sich in zwei Sätzen beschreiben. Das Buch hat nicht wirklich einen Anfang und noch weniger einen Schluss. Auch gibt es keine kontinuierliche Verlauf. Stern springt nach Belieben in der Zeit herum. Der Titel läßt zwar vermuten, daß das Buch das Leben und die Ansichten des Tristram Shandy beschreiben würde, aber eigentlich ist es nicht so. Im Mittelpunkt stehen Tristrams Vater Walter und sein Onkel Toby. Es sind weniger Tristrams als Walter Shandy Ansichten, die den Inhalt das Buches dominieren. Tristram ist zu Beginn der Geschichte noch nicht einmal geboren, ja noch nicht einmal gezeugt worden. Walter Shandy hat sich seine eigene Philosophie zurecht gelegt. Es geht um die Bedeutung der kleinsten Kleinigkeit, um den Einfluss des Namens, der Größe der Nase, der Anordnung der Rocktaschen, um nur einiges zu nennen, auf den Verlauf des Leben. Es gibt ein Kapitel über Backenbärte, eines über Knopflöcher, doch halt, das wird zwar angekündigt, man sucht es aber vergebens. Ein Kapitel besteht nur aus einem Satz, ein weiteres wird zunächst ausgelassen und erst später eingefügt. Es gibt eine Seite, die ganz schwarz ist,...
Der Tristram wird nie langweilig. Immer wieder tritt Stern aus der Rolle des Ich-Erzählers und wendet sich direkt an den Leser. Man muß immer aufmerksam bleiben, sonst verliert man den Faden.
Man lasse sich nicht abschrecken, durch Passagen in Latein und Französisch oder einzelne griechische Wörter, sie werden fast alle übersetzt.
Tristram Shandy ist Unterhaltung pur, ein Buch, das so lebendig ist als würde der Autor einem gegenüber sitzen und die Geschichte soeben erzählen.
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am 23. Januar 2015
Sternes Erzählstil erscheint sehr umständlich und sprunghaft. Die zahlreichen Exkurse ermüden den Leser
und sind auch nicht immer erkenntnisfördernd. Oft dienen sie nur dazu, den Bildungs- und Wissensstand
oder die moralische Vortrefflichkeit der Titelfigur darzustellen. Positiv ist hingegen die präzise Beschreibung
der zeitgenössischen Denk- und Lebenswelt.
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Laurence Sterne's magnificent novel "The Life & Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman" is least of all about the life and opinions of Tristram Shandy, as the title might suggest, for it begins on the day Tristram was begotten and ends with a conversation that took place about four years before he was born. Instead the book deals with Walter Shandy (Tristram's father)'s theories on pretty much everything, with his uncle Toby's martial hobby-horse and meek courtship with the widow Wadman, with noses in general and in particular - and let me remind you here that the autobiographer makes it quite clear that when he is talking about noses he does not intend to hint at anything beyond, or below, a nose -, with the loyalty of Toby's man Trim, with the resolution of Yorick, the rector, never to ride a good horse again, with radical heat and radical moisture, with auxiliary verbs ...

But most of all, it deals with the problems befalling a conscientious narrator, as the following passage might elucidate:

"I am this month one whole year older than I was this time twelve-month; and having got, as you perceive, almost into the middle of my fourth volume - and no farther than to my first day's life - 'tis demonstrative that I have three hundred and sixty-four days more life to write just now, than when I first set out ; so that instead of advancing, as a common writer, in my work with what I have been doing at it - on the contrary, I am just thrown so many volumes back - was every day of my life to be as busy a day as this - And why not ? - at this rate I should just live 364 times faster than I should write - It must follow, an' please your worships, that the more I write, the more I shall have to write - and consequently, the more your worships read, the more your worships will have to read. Will this be good for your worships' eyes?"

It definitely will be! Because the ingenuity with which Laurence Sterne plays with narrative conventions, actually making fun of them by taking them all too seriously opens our eyes to the limitations of literature, while at the same time enriching it with a cock and bull story of unprecedented proportions. For example, in Book I, Chapter 21, Walter Shandy asks his brother Toby a question, but Uncle Toby's answer is interrupted after the introductory words "I think", because Tristram, the narrator, deems it fit to let his readers in on some important biographic information on his uncle first, which, in their turn, are the starting point of various digressions - so that Uncle Toby's full reply to his brother's question will have to wait until Book II, Chapter 6.

Tristram is likewise at a loss when he has to give a description of Mrs. Widman and her inimitable charms; until he finally resolves on leaving a blank page and giving his reader the opportunity to draw a picture of her in his own words, encouraging his reader by saying, "Sit down, Sir, paint her to your own mind - as like your mistress as you can - as unlike your wife as your conscience will let you - 'tis all one to me - please but your own fancy in it."

The snags and snares awaiting him who endeavours to tell a story are also illustrated by Trim's attempts at telling "The Story of the king of Bohemia and his seven castles" and his finding himself challenged to pinning it down somewhere (or somewhen?) in the infinities of time. His repeated suggestions of tagging a year to the beginning of this story are discouraged by Uncle Toby's mild objections until he finally gives up the whole narrative project altogether.

But "Tristram Shandy" is more than a brilliant comment on the difficulties of turning reality into narration. It is infinitely witty, especially when it comes to learned wit, which is the basis of Walter Shandy's numerous odd theories, which one way or other, tend to seem quite sensible when you look at things from Walter's point of view. Take Walter's theory on names and their influence on the characters and lives of their owners. When faced with misgivings on the validity of his theory, Walter simply asks the question, "Your son ! - your dear son, - from whose sweet and open temper you have so much to expect. - Your BILLY, Sir ! - would you, for the world, have called him JUDAS ?"

Although Walter Shandy's theories and opinions are invariably linked with his desire to forestall chaos and disorder, life always proves too unpredictable and multifarious to be organized à la Shandy. Walter's work on the Tristrapaedia proceeds so slowly and takes up so much time that the book is constantly lagging behind Tristram's actual development, and that the father has no time at all to spend on educating his son as he is busy planning his son's education. Tristram's nose is crushed as a consequence of a carefully worked-out marriage contract, and his *****'s intactness is affected by his Uncle's need for scrap-iron. Even the moment of his procreation is thwarted by a mistimed question of his mother that has its roots in Walter's habit of winding up the clock and fulfilling his marital duties on the first Sunday of each month. Order clearly begets disorder here.

Sterne may have created characters that appear too odd to lay any claim to verisimilitude, but nonetheless he humorously hints at conflicts that reveal his knowledge of human nature - in this case probably derived from his own hapless marriage -, as for example here:

"' - My brother Toby, quoth she, is going to be married to Mrs. Wadman.
- Then he will never, quoth my father, be able to lie diagonally in his bed again as long as he lives.
It was a consuming vexation to my father, that my mother never asked the meaning of a thing she did not understand.
- That she is not a woman of science, my father would say - is her misfortune - but she might ask a question.
My mother never did. - In short, she went out of the world at last without knowing whether it turned round, or stood still. - My father had officiously told her above a thousand times which way it was, - but she always forgot.
For these reasons a discourse seldom went on much further betwixt them, than a proposition, - a reply, and a rejoinder; at the end of which, it generally took breath for a few minutes, [...] and then went on again."

And, for all his preoccupation with recondite theories, learned wit, intertextuality and the like, Sterne, more often than not, can be quite astonishingly bawdy, as the following observation will prove: "I won't go about to argue the point with you, - 'tis so, - and I am persuaded of it, Madam, as much as you can be, 'That both man and woman bear pain or sorrow, (and, for aught I know, pleasure too) best in a horizontal position.'"

In short, "Tristram Shandy" is a microcosm of anarchic wit, and Sterne's trick of portaying himself in the character of Yorick, the parson, is anything but amiss, for, as we all know, Yorick was a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy, and has borne us on his back a thousand times. There is only one single thing would please me more than reading "Tristram Shandy", and that is to be able to lay claim to the feat of having written it.
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am 16. Dezember 1999
Tristram Shandy is all too often dismissed as rambling or merely eccentric--and many of the reviews posted here thus far prove no exception. First, let me address some common objections to the novel. Q: It's not about anything. A: That's because it's about everything: body and sensorium, knotting and mapping, blankness and plenum, apocryphal origins, the dangers of solipsism, a crisis in historical continuity. It's also about noses, petticoats, breeches, love, wounds, and auxiliary verbs. Perhaps above all it is a novel about pain--where language fails. Q: It's too long and erratic. A: Be patient. The prose takes some getting used to, but past the first 50 pages or so the reading experience can become incredibly addictive, offering many immediate pleasures. The narrator's digressions, staccatos, elisions are of the essence; he is grappling honestly with problems of narration and temporality. Q: It's incomprehensible without historical background. A: Actually, what amazed me about the book was how timeless its interests and insights are. It's entirely possible to read through without any footnotes and still get everything out of it Sterne had intended to put in.
That being said, I'd also like to note for the record that this book is not simply some forerunner to "postmodernism." Yes--it's clearly the ideal 18th-century example for talking about hypertext, reflexivity, bricolage, metonymic slippage, etc., but to take the text as a merely textual experiment is certainly not the most interesting way to read it. Sterne is not reveling in play so much as he deeply understands the affinity between the tragic and the absurd. I sincerely encourage everyone to try this novel. It's really one of the most original and poignant fictions I have ever read--right up there with Shakespeare, George Eliot, Joyce, Beckett, and Nabokov.
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am 5. Juni 2000
Have you wanted to read a book where the author decides to "rip out" one of the chapters, or leaves a blank page for you to 'draw' one of the characters? Would you enjoy a story which takes many chapters before the hero manages to be born? This 18th-Century tale is touchingly told. The characters are real, and fascinating. It's not their fault that their story is frequently and impishly interrupted by outlandish "digressions" on the part of an author so creative that his modern descendants are considered to be Joyce and Beckett, as well as many others. Would you enjoy a chapter on Chapters? About buttonholes? About whether parents and their children are kin to each other? A chapter on curses? Poor Laurence Sterne has so much trouble getting two of his characters down the stairs that he finally calls in a "critic" to help! Advice on reading such an unusual, even unique, book: read the first several chapters, then stop and reread them. Continue that process and soon the book will feel quite familiar, and that's when the fun really starts. The Oxford World's Classics edition follows the first edition of the book, and is preferred. Amazon also offers the fully-annotated edition, the "Florida" edition, in three volumes.
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am 20. März 1999
Tristram Shandy... hmmm? Where to begin? Yorick? His conception? His nose? If it sounds banal to you, try reading it. It took me six weeks to get through the couple of hundred pages. This book is ridiculous, and I mean that as in "stupid", not "devilishly funny". Try Catcher in the Rye or Pride and Prejudice instead.
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