Jacques the Fatalist and His Master is a philosophical novel in which Diderot, through a fictional narrative, examines the problem of moral responsibility and the. Denis Diderot () was among the greatest writers of the Enlightenment, and in Jacques the Fatalist he brilliantly challenged the. A review, and links to other information about and reviews of Jacques the Fatalist by Denis Diderot.

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Preview — Jacques the Fatalist by Denis Diderot. Jacques the Fatalist by Denis Diderot. 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.

PaperbackOxford World’s Classicspages. Published September 16th by Oxford University Press first published To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

To ask other readers questions about Jacques the Fatalistplease sign up. See 1 question about Jacques the Fatalist…. Lists with This Book. The first French edition was published posthumously inbut it was known earlier in Germany, thanks to Goethe’s partial translation, which appeared in and was retranslated into French inas 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. The tales told are usually humorous, with romance or sex as their subject matter, and feature complex characters indulging in deception.

Jacques’s key philosophy is that everything that happens to us down here, whether for good or for evil, has been written up above, on a “great scroll” that is unrolled a little bit at a time. Yet Jacques still places value on his actions and is not a passive character. Critics such as J. Robert Loy have characterized Jacques’s philosophy as not fatalism but determinism.

The book is full of contradictory characters and other dualities. One story tells of two men in the army who are so much alike that, though they are the best of friends, they cannot stop dueling and wounding each other. Another concerns Father Hudson, an intelligent and effective reformer of the church who is privately the most debauched character in the book.

Even Jacques and his master transcend their apparent roles, as Jacques proves, in his insolence, that his master cannot live without him, and therefore it is Jacques who is the master and the master who is the servant. The story of Jacques’s loves is lifted directly from Tristram Shandy, which Diderot makes no secret of, as the narrator at the end announces the insertion of an entire passage from Tristram Shandy into the story.


Throughout the work, the narrator refers derisively to sentimental novels and calls attention to the ways in which events develop more realistically in his book. At other times, the narrator tires of the tedium of narration altogether and obliges the reader to supply certain trivial details. And what do you say?

Don’t you think you would do just as well if you shut up? It is often too easy for me to forget that high humor and religious cynicism are not new developments within the realm of published fiction. On top of that, as much as we readers Master: On top of that, as much as we readers here about “pomo trickery” and meta-humor, these terms–often used as insults akin to calling someone “trendy”–are generally associated with literature no more than a century old. Well, to all you pomos and popomos: He is your metatastic brother from another great-great-great-great-great-grandmother.

At some point before his death inhe composed Jacques the Fatalist in some editions titled Jacques the Fatalist and His Masteran arguably better name because of the fact that it directly references the text’s play on character power dynamics. This “novel”, written in the stage play style seen above combined with frequent asides by an omniscient, brassy narrator, tells the story of real-life-storytelling as depicted in written form.

Diderot breaks down the common motifs of the stock “novel”, holding its cliches in one hand and the reality of conversing with other human beings in the other. The dialogue is the same interrupted, rambling, endless swirl of words that we tend to find in actual attempts at expressing ourselves verbally either one-on-one or in groups. And it is amazingly funny while doing so. I would be willing to bet my lunch money that Charlie Kaufman is a huuuuge Diderot fan. To go back to my earlier point It is no secret that Diderot was a spiteful sort about organized religion, and he uses Jacques and his insistence on Predestination as means to excuse his debauchery along with every other spiritual figure in the story, each of which is almost more corrupt than basically every non-religious character within this fictional realm as a means to highlight the hypocrisy, escapism, and general slovenliness he saw in default spiritual beliefs.

Proceed with caution, as this one does bite.

This story was a bit of an awakening for me. It may be the oldest piece of literature I have read aftalist embraced meta-humor to such an extreme. As I previously stated, I tend to let myself think that this sort of thing is a new-ish development, a product of information over-saturation or something.

However, Jacques the Fatalist is one of the most macques, admittedly even brazenly self-critical, and quite frankly hilarious novels about novel writing and reading that I have ever read. It constantly stops to reflect on itself, jarring you with by repeatedly pointing out that this is not an escape, this is not a reality, this is a story about stories within stories within stories, and you are reading it right now.

The tangled mess that jaxques eventually becomes reminded me in many ways of THIS bit of genius.

Jacques the Fatalist

View all 27 comments. So I’m sitting in my place when the door bell rings. I open the door to find a girl with fataist curly hair whom I never have seen before, she takes hold of my hand with both her hands imploring me to help her. Suddenly I’m a superhero and she is a damsel in distress, and so I ask her what is wrong? And she sighing and almost sobbing tells me Why do you care?


It is not a story, it is supposed to be a review of Jacques the fatalist.

Philosophy, theatre, literature, science— he was involved in them all and his efforts during the enlightenment age earned praises from his contemporary Voltaire. He championed the cause of freedom of speech and that of Science, which wasn’t much liked by church. Like Voltaire, he was an atheist.

Jacques the Fatalist and His Master

Well, talking about fatalism, it reminds of a women The woman I’m now talking about, a friend, told me how this one time she was sitting in a casino and losing constantly when this guy in a black suit comes in, ‘very ugly to be honest but except for that very very charming’ – as she put it.

And now she was about to leave having nothing but bad luck that day but he somehow persuaded her to try again for number six and with all her money – and again and again, for three times and she won each time. Obviously happy, she was soon drinking with him asking him who he was and he told her.

Again, always putting your nose in other people’s business, aren’t we? It is a review remember? He is very active, clever and always trying to enjoy his life. And so there is no free-will. He wanted to tell us how even someone believing in such fatalism won’t be too immoral or a defeatist. But really I’m too excited to tell you about the fatlaist of that girl with chocolaty curly hair and so she tells me that she has a cockroach in the house and that I must But you are laughing.

What did you expect? Though if it was a novel, it would definitely have been something more sinister – dragons, vampires,zombies, aliens, ghosts etc. As it is I was even scared of cockroaches too and so But I want to tell this one. Angrily All right, I guess it is written on high.

So the ugly guy is just about to tell her his story diderkt he notices something wrong with his drink and tells her to wait a second as he leaves to complain about it. Now you might have noticed above, I called it a chronicle instead of a And now you are still pestering me to finish the story first.

But he has gone to complain, let him.

Jacques the Fatalist and His Master by Denis Diderot | : Books

Meanwhile let me finish with the review. Now you might have noticed Now you might have I know that ugly charming man is devil. And he wanted viderot to play and how he was sure she will win fayalist You sit back, disappointed. Now you might have noticed above, I called it a chronicle instead of a novel, and it is because our author keeps on reminding you of that.

It involves references to a number of real people.

There is a lot of meta-humor in there. And there are constant interruptions from writer, reader – people like you, characters, fate etc. There is another similarity — the reader with his or her constant questions and demands that interrupt the story and annoy the author, seems to have some sort of personality of his diderto. Okay finished, to get on with the story, where were we?