'TIS FOLLY TO BE WISE by Lion Feuchtwanger


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Sub-titled Death and Transfiguration of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, this is a monumental endeavor to make a novel out of unmalleable material. Frankly, I found it contrived and ponderous and --unforgivable sin- dull. Part One traces Rousseau's last days, as he sought refuge from an unfeeling world, with one of his followers, M. de Girardin and his worshipful son, Fernand. Preceding Jean-Jacques came his peasant-like wife, Therese, and her ambitious mother, and in their hands were the controls. Therese proved a trouble-maker, as she was a promiscuous animal- and played carelessly with the passions of not only the servant assigned them, but the son of the house. This part ends with Rousseau's death. Then comes the problem of his papers- The Confessions, which his admirers find shocking as a revelation- and which on ultimate publication, bring him a new immortality. The story heads into the storm and confusion of the Revolution, the shifting loyalties, changing powers, and recurrently the theme of Rousseau's teachings as a motivating force. Therese and her paramour. Nicholas, the Girardins, father and son, Gilborte who had loved Fernand and borne another man's child, play their parts on a bloody stage. And at the end- with the questionable fruits of revolution garnered, and Rousseau given back to the people, the story ends. There's material for a dozen books here, and somehow it falls of its own weight. I can't see the market that liked Proud Destiny, etc.

Pub Date: April 27th, 1953
Publisher: Messner