Poictesme

james_branch_cabell Today I’m going to begin exploring some of the references in an amazing Robert A Heinlein quote from Glory Road. My first target a word I was completely unfamiliar with, “Poictesme”.

Poictesme (pronounced “pwa-tem”) is a fictional country roughly located in the south of France that came to be ruled by a scandalous fellow named Dom Manuel. There’s a long series of 25 books written over 23 years collectively called “The Biography of Manuel” written by James Branch Cabell. They concern not only Dom Manuel but his descendants for several generations. Manuel goes through several phases from Manuel the swineherd, a scoundrel who rises to conquer a realm by playing on others expectations, to Manuel the redeemer who has a reputation as the perfect hero, but his companions know better.

poictesme mapCabell is a writer I should not have heard of from a quote by someone else. One of the quotes from the Biography of Manuel is quite famous.

“The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist fears this is true.”

Yes Cabell is that guy. The Biography of Manuel is the story that comes from. Here’s a few more interesting gems:

“Poetry is man’s rebellion against being what he is.”

“While it is well enough to leave footprints on the sands of time, it is even more important to make sure they point in a commendable direction.”

“There is not any memory with less satisfaction than the memory of some temptation we resisted.”

“I have made at worst some neat, precise and joyous little tales which prevaricate tenderly about the universe and veil the pettiness of human nature with screens of verbal jewelwork. It is not the actual world they tell about, but a vastly superior place where the Dream is realized and everything which in youth we knew was possible comes true. It is a world we have all glimpsed, just once, and have not ever entered, and have not ever forgotten. So people like my little tales. . . . Do they induce delusions? Oh, well, you must give people what they want, and literature is a vast bazaar where customers come to purchase everything except mirrors.” – Cabell’s description of his own writing.

“Mundus Vult Decipi” – Manuel’s motto which translates to, ‘the world wishes to be deceived’.

I like this guy. He reminds me of a combination of Mark Twain, Robert A Heinlein and Jonathan Swift. If you share my newfound interest in Poictesme and the loose morals of its hero Dom Manuel, you can read the most famous book, Jurgen: a Comedy of Justice, online. I highly encourage you to do so.

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