book cover of The New Decameron

The New Decameron

(1966)
Further Tales from The Saragossa Manuscript
A collection of stories by

 
 
The Saragossa Manuscript isnt merely a book, a three-winded-sheets black river of blarney occupied by ghosts, bandits, compromised noblemen, banshees, nymphs, Inquisitors, logorrheics, sheikhs, clergy, philosophers, torturers, gypsies, cabalists, and infidels, most of whom masquerade as someone else at least once. Its a dream of reading, a dream of storytelling. Its a book that exists in its own secret history, occupying a hidden timeline the way toys, in childrens tales, are thought to run clandestine governments when the nursery door is closed. At the same timeall this timeit is itself such a secret history, a litany of alternate universes that runs beneath the surface of human life like long-abandoned sewer canals you can escape into, leading to the sea. If it is not in fact the only book we know that never endson the page, and in real time, its subterranean career spiraling out even as we speakit is surely the single book that could be defined in its every aspect by its never-ending-ness. It is its infinite-jest nature to elude ideological capture as something to be explicated and boxed. It is literature sans frontières, like an Escher staircase that doesnt conclude but doesnt circle in on itself either, or a Gödelian theorem whose paradoxes reside not within contradictory self-categorizations, but in the inability to quantify something, like an electrons scramble, that will not stop happening. Surely, Potocki was a student of Chaucer, Boccaccio and The Book of the Thousand and One Nights, if not of the eleventh-century Sanskrit epic The Ocean of Story. But always remember that Before the Crying of Lot 49 and the Illuminatus Trilogy, there was a spiraling Eighteenth century Polish-French literary mystery called The Saragossa Manuscript.



Used availability for Jan Potocki's The New Decameron