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The Shaving of Shagpat

George Meredith

Book Overview: 

The novel is a humorous oriental romance and allegory written in the style of the Arabian Nights. Like its model, it includes a number of stories within the story, along with poetic asides.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Twill surprise him!' And she robed herself in a robe of saffron, and set lesser gems of the diamond and the emerald in the braid of her hair, and knotted the Serpent Jewel firmly in a band of gold-threaded tissue, and had it woven in her hair among the braids. In this array she awaited his coming, and pleased her mind with picturing his astonishment and the joy that would be his. Mute were the women who waited on her, for in their lives they had seen no such sight as Bhanavar beneath the beams of the Jewel, and the whole chamber was aglow with her.

Now, in her anxiety she sent them one and one repeatedly to look forth at the window for the coming of the Prince. So, when he came not she went herself to look forth, and stretched her white neck beyond the casement. While her head was exposed, she heard a cry of some one from the house in the street opposite, and Bhanavar beheld in the house of the broker an old wrinkled fellow that gesticulated to her in a frenzy.. . . Read More

Community Reviews

A charming Arabian Nights fantasy in which a barber discovers he is the chosen one destined to carry out the title feat and remove a mystic talisman of great power from Shagpat's hirsute face. Lush, colorful language adds to the fun, though Meredith (whose previous book had been poetry) has a few to

This is a Victorian pastiche of the Arabian Nights, and as these things go it isn’t half bad. It doesn’t, true, live up to its initial promise as parody but, having read, waded and occasionally floundered through much of Burton’s translation of the Nights themselves, I can say that he’s imitating th

150 year old Arabian Nights pastiche -- almost unreadably florid prose. To quote from the very first page:

Now, the story of Shibli Bagarag, and of the ball he followed, and of the subterranean kingdom he came to, and of the enchanted palace he entered, and of the sleeping king he shaved, and of the

Meredith's imagination is much more powerful a lot of his contemporaries, and seems to be so overpowering that he is often distracted from the narrative to describe even the most banal details of his world. Frequently writers of the Victorian era (Thackeray, Eliot, Dickens) wrote in a style we'd now

A wild ride. Beautiful prose, noteworthy poetry, and gripping narrative. As other reviewers have stated, it is very Arabian Nights-esque, but the (2) short stories are fun and interesting (unlike many in the Arabian Nights).

I highly recommend reading this, even though it may take some getting used

Interesting Victorian psychedelia, at times wearying in its Arabian Nights conceit, but on the whole surprisingly entertaining.

"…for the mastery of an Event lasteth among men the space of one cycle of years, and after that a fresh Illusion springeth to befool mankind, and the Seven must expend the

Noorna-bin-Noorka is Shibli's HGA. She helps him fulfill his true will. When Shibli deviates from her guidance he gets thwacked. That is my Thelemic perspective on the book.

Filled with wild, magical imagery. I really enjoyed this book but found it difficult to follow. The baroque/comic Arabian Nights language can be hard to unravel but definitely worth the effort.

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