A 1919 novel by American writer/asp James Branch Cabell, later retrofitted into the Herculean Biography of Dom Manuel, which caused an uproar in Twenties New York City. The book and cycle are works of fantasy; however, even — I should say especially — those of you who normally avoid fantasy should give the books a chance — they are very much the opposite of what is common in the genre these days. The titular Dom Manuel is a crook and a criminal, whose motto is Mundus Vult Decipi, a principle he lives by indeed; his friends are sly, lazy cynics, debauchers and liars, and none so cynical as Cabell himself, who seems sometimes to despise, individually and collectively, the whole human race — which did its best to vindicate him, as you shall see.

Jurgen details the travels and travails of the eponymous youth as he ranges from Heaven to Hell and everywhere in between, acting the rascal; he lies, cheats, steals, and seduces the Devil's wife (among many others). It had actually been something of an underground favorite in New York's smart set, until a gossip columnist revealed that »all the showgirls on Broadway are reading a book called Jurgen«, at which point the overzealous protectors of morality of the day — creatures doubly criminal because their intractable stupidity also produced the equally imbecilic laxity of our own time — stepped in and put their feet down. It's one thing for intellectuals to read indecent books, but when loose women do it, by Gad something must be done! What if they find out about sex?! It was a scandal Cabell never lived down — forever after, his books sold much better.

Still, it's a good thing nobody reasons that way anymore, isn't it, Mr. Cabell?


A slightly apache addition, for which I hope to be forgiven by the gracious questineers: at the time of this writing, those of you who have e-readers or just like to read on a screen may download Jurgen free in PDF form here, the book having lapsed into the public domain. The download clocks in at a terrifying 1.1 MB.