Tristram Shandy

  • by Laurence Sterne
  • Narrated by Anton Lesser
  • 19 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Laurence Sterne’s most famous novel is a biting satire of literary conventions and contemporary 18th-century values. Renowned for its parody of established narrative techniques, Tristram Shandy is commonly regarded as the forerunner of avant-garde fiction. Tristram’s characteristic digressions on a whole range of unlikely subjects (including battle strategy and noses!) are endlessly surprising and make this one of Britain’s greatest comic achievements. A cast of strange characters populate this strangest of novels: gentle Uncle Toby, sarcastic Walter, and of course, the pompous, garrulous Tristram himself. This edition is read by Anton Lesser in a tour de force performance.
Please note: In print, Tristram Shandy is filled with visual, typographical, and compositing jokes - pages that are completely blank, pages that are completely black, misplaced chapters or chapters consisting only of their title, squiggly lines to indicate waving a stick, and much more besides. This audiobook tries in a variety of ways to match Sterne's invention with aural equivalents.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Like discovering Frank Zappa in 250 years

A POEM IN WHICH IS A CELEBRATION BY NEGATION
or, a repartee on jeopardy.

If on a friend’s bookshelf
You cannot find Joyce or Sterne
Cervantes, Rabelais, or Burton,

You are in danger, face the fact,
So kick him first or punch him hard
And from him hide behind a curtain.
― Alexander Theroux*

I was (of course) destined to love this book. Just look at my love for/on Montaigne, Cervantes & Burton. J'adore big books full of absurdity and digressions and allusions. This is the ... THE ... grand-pappa of the modern novel; the paterfamilis of all things Shandy.

Looking into the black night after emerging with a book from my mother's womb, I dreamt of THIS book among the stars. Sterne's Tristram existed for me before I read it. It was like a song whose tune you hum in your head for years, before identifying the tune with an actual song. Tristram Shandy was playing in the background as I read Joyce, Nabokov, Kerouac, Vonnegut, Murakami, Pynchon, DFW, Rushdie, Woolf, etc. Hell, even Karl Marx loved this book.

But now, I find myself debating on whether I will be content with my Modern Library (Fokenflik intro and notes) version or if I need to go buy the Visual Edition or the Florida Edition. BTW, the NAXOS/Lesser audio version is amazing AMAZING, but you still want the text in front of you because part of Sterne's genius is SEEN not just heard.

IF this seems like an odd obsession after reading/finishing/listening to Tristram Shandy, perhaps (I am guessing) you haven't READ it. 'The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman' just isn't one of those books you really escape from. I keep digressing back into the novel because you keep recognizing the novel in other novels and movies and people. I look at Mandelbrot sets and think THIS is Tristram Shandy with its digressions, repetitions, and spawn. I look at the endnotes of DFW and think, this IS a Shandian experiment. I look at Vonnegut's picture of an * a$$hole (pg 81) in 'BreakFast of Champions' and think: this is a Shandian experiment.

Sterne was postModern before postModern was cool. Reading Tristram Shandy is like discovering that someone in the 18th century had already built a working computer, but that all (all is not to minimize it, simply to localize ti) it did was spit out a long sequence of digressions (All your base are belong to us). Anyway, my wife informed me that she loved just watching me read/listen (so this is now a voyeur review) Sterne because I would spit, giggle, choke, and squirm every page. I would wiggle and twist as Sterne would allude to the classics and twist the logic and satirize everyone from Robert Burton to Jonathan Swift to William Warburton. I can't say this novel isn't appreciated. Those who have read it get it, but it isn't appreciated enough. I imagine it will be like discovering Frank Zappa in 250 years. A future me will be looking at old YouTube videos and will think GOD why didn't more people appreciate him?

* from 'The Lollipop Trollops and Other Poems'
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- Darwin8u

Monty Python's Great, Great Grandfather

Where does Tristram Shandy rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Anton Lesser is pitch-perfect in his reading of Sterne's 18th Century masterpiece. The story itself is possibly the least straight-forward narrative in literary history, but its endless digressions lead to real delights. Zany, cryptically bawdy, witty, and at times beautifully philosophical, it has more than earned its status among the Western Canon. Naxos has done a brilliant job in translating this, at times, difficult to follow text, translating it brilliantly for the ear. Time well spent!


What was one of the most memorable moments of Tristram Shandy?

Slawkenbergius's Tale-- had to have been an influence on "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."


Have you listened to any of Anton Lesser’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

One of his best.


If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

A Cock and Bull Story (Already used when film was made).


Any additional comments?

A head trip that's also a master-course in wit.

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- Zeno

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-03-2012
  • Publisher: Naxos AudioBooks