Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is a huge literary paradox, for it is both a novel and an anti-novel. As a comic novel replete with bawdy humour and generous sentiments, it introduces us to a vivid group of memorable characters, variously eccentric, farcical and endearing. As an anti-novel, it is a deliberately tantalising and exuberantly egoistic work, ostentatiously digressive, involving the reader in the labyrinthine creation of a purported autobiography.
This mercurial eighteenth-century text thus anticipates modernism and postmodernism. Vibrant and bizarre, Tristram Shandy provides an unforgettable experience. We may see why Nietzsche termed Sterne ‘the most liberated spirit of all time’.
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