Tristram Shandy


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by Laurence Sterne
vintage edition published by Airmont, 1967


Tristram Shandy has had considerable influence on literature — that of other languages as well as our own. The romantic and sentimental movements in France, Germany, Italy and Russia of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries owed much to Sterne. Heine had great regard for him, claiming that he "opens a window... on the hidden reserves of the soul."

The purpose of Tristram Shandy, beyond entertainment, seems to be to open the reader's heart and feelings. Sterne says in Book VI: "I write a careless kind of a civil, nonsensical, good-humoured Shandean book, which will do all your hearts good — And all your heads too,—provided you understand it." But his emphasis elsewhere is even more strongly on the heart. "When the heart flies out before the understanding," he tells us, "it saves the judgement a world of pains." This is the lessen of Tristram Shandy, if lessen there be. There is innate goodness in man, and if he follows his heart, that goodness will become operative in the world. Sterne wants us to use our hearts.

- paperback: 458 pages
- product dimensions: 105 x 180 mm