Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy


Sterne, Tristram Shandy


  • Intro

    '--Shut the door.--was begot in the night, betwixt the first Sunday and the first Monday in the month of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighteen. I am positive I was.'


    The Life and  Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, is a witty and highly original novel. Its title makes it sound like a typical 'bildungsroman': the 'novel of experience' that charts an individual's growth from childhood to maturity.  In reality, it is a strikingly modern attempt to chart the difficulty of writing such an account. In trying to tell the story of his origins, Tristram gets bogged down by his desire to make his explanations as precise and all-encompassing as possible: he goes off on tangents, is led up blind alleys, and sometimes descends into inarticulacy, with words giving way to squiggles, asterisks and occasional blank pages. His digressions - on topics as diverse as siege warfare, the naming of children, the importance of having a large and attractively-shaped nose, and his own accidental circumcision - are often extremely funny.


    Laurence Sterne was criticised by some of his contemporaries for his borrowings from other texts, but Tristram Shandy is praised today as a very early example of metafiction.

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