|About the Book|
This 17th century picaresque novel is the first person account of the adventures of Simplicius, a young man growing up amid the violent disruptions of the Thirty Years War. He begins as a country bumpkin, but in the course of his journey takes up many professions, roles, and disguises: apprentice hermit, stable boy, court fool, common soldier (on both sides of the conflict) guerrilla commander, freebooter, sneak thief, lover, husband, masquer, adulterer, female prostitute, merchant, world traveler, wealthy noble, and...back to hermit again.The author doesnt seem to be much concerned with character development. Although our hero tells us at the end of the narrative that he has become disillusioned with the world, we would have never inferred this from his actions or his tone, for he seems much the same as before, his disillusionment little more than another mask. The novel, however, makes up for its lack of character development through its precise, inventive narrative, crowded with incident and teeming with life.Perhaps the most impressive thing about this book is the way it can move abruptly from homespun humor to bloody battle raid, from fart jokes (of which there are many) to the torture of civilians, from rogues tales of trickery to a mock scholastic lecture and then on to a genuine encounter with the occult. Some of this is just part of the picaresque design (or lack of it), but it also seems as if there is something about the arbitrary violence of war that not only encourages randomness but also deprives the person who is immersed in it of the ability to be either surprised or shocked.This book is uneven, and I never wished it longer. Many scenes, however (the war atrocities, the school for professional fools, the witches sabbath, and Simplicius encounter with the mermen who live beneath a local lake) were vivid, memorable and amusing.If someone asked me where they could learn what it was like in war-torn Germany during 17th century, I would without hesitation send them to this book. And I dont even like fart jokes.