Sunday, 28 September 2014

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

I was born in the year 1632, in the city of York, of a good family, though not of that country, my father being a foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull. 

Who hasn't heard of this story? It is a classic adventure story loved by many (at least the TV and film versions), but the opening line of this is horrible. Perhaps back in the day this was the way to start, but as it has nothing to do with being deserted on an island, it is preamble and quite uninteresting preamble at that, not to mention that it's a massive back story dump. But this was the early days of novel writing and the writer was still finding his way.

The opening paragraph goes on in the same uninteresting way, talking about people and onomastics that really have nothing to do with the the premise; yes, we learn a little about Crusoe but in an encyclopedic entry manner.

He got a good estate by merchandise, and leaving off his trade, lived afterwards at York, from whence he had married my mother, whose relations were named Robinson, a very good family in that country, and from whom I was called Robinson Kreutznaer; but, by the usual corruption of words in England, we are now called—nay we call ourselves and write our name—Crusoe; and so my companions always called me.

This history goes on and on and on until we learn that he's a bit of a sailor though perhaps not made for such work, not that this is conflict that anyone would care about. Why couldn't this start with being on the island and then mention this boring stuff later when the reader would mildly care?

This is part of the series: the top 100 novels from Daniel S. Burt's book called Novel 100, the top 100 novels of all time. There is debate of course as to what should be on that list, but his opinions are as good as any. Robinson Crusoe sits at number 77 as the best novel ever.

Verdict: Fail

Theodore Moracht

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