I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized A Novel Enterprise

A Novel Enterprise

Geoff Ward
April 25th this year marks the three-hundredth anniversary of the publication of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. One can quite reasonably claim it was the first novel in the English language, if the novel is to be regarded as primarily, or necessarily, a realist form. Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe in six months or less and it became a publishing phenomenon. By the end of 1719, there had been four editions, and it went on to become one of the most widely published books ever. By 1900, no book in the history of Western literature had more editions, translations and imitations. The trend continued through the twentieth century, in film, television and radio as well as in literature, leading even to the founding of a genre, the “Robinsonade”. Robinson Crusoe masqueraded as a “true history”, “history” being the term used for such fiction until the word “novel” came into use towards the end of the eighteenth century. But Robinson Crusoe was published to appear not as fiction, but as a chronicle of real events. Its title page read: The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by Pyrates. The author’s name does not appear here; indeed, Robinson Crusoe was credited as the author – “written by himself” it says at the foot of the title page. Not only are all attributes of fiction avoided, but the “editor” of the book roundly dismisses any idea that the story might be invented. Defoe’s inspiration probably came from stories of real-life castaways in his time, the most likely source for Crusoe being the Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk, who spent four years on the uninhabited island of Más a Tierra in the Juan Fernandez Islands in the South Pacific, off Chile. He was marooned there voluntarily after he refused to continue a voyage on a leaky ship. In 1966, the island was renamed Robinson Crusoe Island. Selkirk’s rescue in 1709 by an English expedition led to the publication, in 1712, of his adventures in A Voyage to the South Sea and Round the World and A Cruising Voyage Around the World, written by members of the expedition which rescued him. Key…

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