Accueil > Novels > "The Way of All Flesh" by Samuel Butler (1903)

"The Way of All Flesh" by Samuel Butler (1903)

lundi 21 août 2023, par Samuel Butler

The narrator recounts the harsh upbringing of his godson Ernest Pontifex, son of a Church of England minister, the oppressive everyday religiosity of his family life, his difficult schooling, his career at Cambridge, his ordination, his floundering attempts to live in a working-class neighbourhood to better be able to bring them the good word, his fall into the depths and then his struggle to start a new life and to conciliate his new set of beliefs to the world around him.

Although generally classified as a 20th-century novel in view of its posthumous publication in 1903, one year after Butler’s death, it was actually written in the 1870s and completely finished by 1882, so it is in fact yet another great literary creation of that extraordinarily rich high-water period of literary and artistic achievement, the European 19th Century.

The subject and ideas – the hypocrisy and injustice and even repulsiveness of a bourgeois-Victorian upbringing based on strict (too strict, practically inhumanly strict) Christian values – are sufficiently wide-ranging and important and, one could say, so much in tune with 21st Century thinking on these themes to fully engage the interest of today’s reader, even though the intensity of the issues involved has largely abated.

And the formidable erudition and wit, the humour, the sharpness and the intensity of the author’s style are as palpably alive today as ever, making this incontestably one of the major literary accomplishments of its time.

(163,250 words)

An e-book is available for downloading below.

The Way of All Flesh (e-book)