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It is about a fictitious island, inhabited by great auks, that existed off the northern coast of Europe.
The history begins when a wayward Christian missionary monk lands on the island and perceives the upright, unafraid auks as a sort of pre-Christian society of noble pagans. Mostly blind and somewhat deaf, having mistaken the animals for humans, he baptizes them.
This causes a problem for The Lord, who normally only allows humans to be baptized. After consulting with saints and theologians in Heaven, He resolves the dilemma by converting the baptized birds to humans with only a few physical traces of their ornithological origin, and giving them each a soul. View all 8 comments. Jul 24, Sean rated it liked it Shelves: Not acually about penguins. The French are crafty like that. Sep 18, Dergrossest rated it really liked it. The author is clearly an atheist, but he is not as mean spirited as most modern adherents to the Cult of Non-Believers.
The rich stay rich by allying themselves with the instruments of church and state, and the poor and minorities pay the price for the advancement of their civilization. The arguments of the rich against their increased taxation could have been written by Karl Rove and it is somewhat disheartening to realize how long the oppressed have been drinking this swill. The author could not apparently contemplate a future where conspicuous consumption is a virtue and the Kardashians, Housewives of New Jersey and Trumps reign supreme in the public consciousness.
The book suffers slightly from the fact that it is a translation of political events in France involving French historical figures who are long dead. Accordingly, unless you are an erudite Francophile, much of the subtlety of this work will be lost on you.
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View all 3 comments. Apr 28, Jareed rated it liked it Shelves: It is a cynical retelling of the human history commenced in the era before pre-history to the modern ages, done in satire. It is certainly satirical and cynical but to what extent is fictional retelling and actual telling is indeterminate. After all, one can simply consider this a bold and fearless work, claiming that what Anatole France has written here is the natural truth of the world that people naively fail to see or perfunctorily acknowledge. The novel begins when a monk, Mael, who ingenuously unknown to him to have been led by the devil, comes across Penguins, and irretrievably baptizes them on the strength of the precarious belief perpetuated by a sharp dulling of the senses imposed by old age that the said Penguins were humans.
The Council, like most parliamentary bodies, fraught with innumerable opinions hastily decides, for the sake of arriving at a decision, to turn the Penguins into humans.
Patrick, "is void when it is given to birds, just as the sacrament of marriage is void when it is given to a eunuch. They came to be known as the Penguins and this is their history. France chose certain points in human history to emulate. He starts off with the Ancient Times, where the concept of private property was to be brutally established. The story is infused with fictional aspects like the inclusion of the histories of dragons and other notable mythical creatures. The following are the recurring and prevalent points in the eras France chose to write with.
The penguin people were transformed by the power of God. But he cannot fill them with the knowledge and moralities needed in life; these were to be their test.
They were but suckling infants in these aspects. France plays this aspect out with the recurring theme of corruption of the penguin human soul in its pursuit of knowledge, readily stating at times that man is no different from the common animal. The church sought to rectify this dilemma. The didactic needs were exclusively satisfied by the monks of the order of Mael. From this relationship stems an age long conundrum the real world is no stranger to. France incorporated this idea when he extensively wrote on the politics, further leading to the excessive entanglement of the church and the state that screwed us many times over.
This is the explanation of the unity of belief. A constant practice of the Church doubtless contributed also to maintain this happy communion of the faithful—every Penguin who thought differently from the others was immediately burned at the stake. His political insights carry incomparable probative value and relevance to our times.
This is true of the Penguin nation, as of all other nations. As soon as one of our industries fails to find a market for its products a war is necessary to open new outlets. Everywhere we are destroying all that is free, unexpected, measured, restrained, human, or traditional among the things that are left us. The less they satisfy desire the more they inspire it.
Whether I would place it as a genuine attempt of his at unraveling this interesting idea, which is no less real than it really is as of today, or an objectification of the female sexuality confounds me Anatole France was himself a womanizer.
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The Penguin Island is riddled with cunning decisive and witty women, the patron saint of Alca, the woman who saved them from an alleged dragon was a woman, a woman toppled a regime, a woman defined the minister of the republic which led to vicissitudes sought by socialists. This I guess would by necessity imply the exaltation men in this book curry to these women, to which they were led to ruin, sadness, manipulation and a relationship of convenience. France is subtle but as vicious as can be. In all instances, when men of acclaimed holy stature are tempted, they are tempted unbeknownst to them by the devil himself clothe in holy robes.
The act that sets this history in motion is of such kind, and many more instances can be read in the book. This to me may perhaps stand as a representation of the evils within the institutional church that haunted haunts? Other Books by Anatole France: Revolt of the Angels 4 Stars This book forms part of my remarkably extensive reading list on Nobel Prize for Literature Awardees This review has been cross-posted at imbookedindefinitely View all 4 comments. Am I glad I picked it up.
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It said it was a satire, but it was much better than that. It was a French satire of someone who lived in the Gilded Age. This means anyone who supports Bernie Sanders would really appreciate some of the satire. It also sends up religion, politics, property rights, war, etc. I just loved it. One reason is how it was written. Maybe it's because it's French. Those people's brains are just wired different.
But the satire is subtle yet effective.
I may have to get my own personal copy of this! When a bumbling priest accidently baptizes a population of penguins, God is left with a cosmic problem. The solution results in the creation of the Penguin race, and is the beginning of the long history of Penguinia. Anatole France has essentially written an entire farcical history book, satirizing various stages of human civilization.
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First he mocks early religion and mythology, prominently featuring the exploits of a saucy and quick-witted young woman, who in later Penguin history will be know When a bumbling priest accidently baptizes a population of penguins, God is left with a cosmic problem. First he mocks early religion and mythology, prominently featuring the exploits of a saucy and quick-witted young woman, who in later Penguin history will be known as Saint Orberosia, despite her history of infidelity and opportunistic lies.
He follows this up with lampoons of the middle age and modern times, both of which center on the relationship between government and religion. The church, composed of saintly followers of the holy Orberosia, is a constant threat to the representative government, alternately instigating baseless scandals a la the Dreyfus affair , plotting revolutions, and conspiring to start unprovoked wars.
Finally France provides us with a very dystopian vision of the future, where Penguinia becomes a soulless commercial metropolis under attack by disillusioned terrorists. The premise of this book is clearly inspired, but I found it hard to read. It really is a history book, which means that it skips quickly from story to story, never staying long with any particular set of characters. I found the stories involving love and relationships to be sarcastically poignant, while some of the political insights display an astounding amount of relevance to modern events.
It controlled the finances of the republic, and directed the foreign affairs of the country as if it were possessed of sovereign power. I would even prefer him to be of no great ability. Stupid people show an inimitable grace in roguery. Although I didn't enjoy reading the book as much as I'd hoped, all of the witty phrases and lucid insights make Penguin Island worth the time it takes to slog through a whole imaginary history.
Jul 11, Vivek Tejuja rated it really liked it. It is probably nothing like I have ever read before and maybe that is why I did not have a reference point to compare it with, which in a way was the best way to read this book. So let me straight get to the plot: A monk discovers a previously unknown island. He is half-deaf and half-blind because of age. He cannot see the people clearly or so he assumes them to be people.
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