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Barry Lyndon

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First published in 1844, this is Thackeray's earliest substantial work of fiction and perhaps his most original. The text is that of Saintbury's 1908 Oxford edition which incorporates Thackeray's revisions.

About the Series: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

220 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1844

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About the author

William Makepeace Thackeray

1,326 books860 followers
Thackeray, an only child, was born in Calcutta, India, where his father, Richmond Thackeray (1 September 1781 – 13 September 1815), held the high rank of secretary to the board of revenue in the British East India Company. His mother, Anne Becher (1792–1864) was the second daughter of Harriet and John Harman Becher and was also a secretary (writer) for the East India Company.

William had been sent to England earlier, at the age of five, with a short stopover at St. Helena where the imprisoned Napoleon was pointed out to him. He was educated at schools in Southampton and Chiswick and then at Charterhouse School.

See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_...

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 220 reviews
Profile Image for Steven Godin.
2,320 reviews2,195 followers
December 22, 2017
Had someone asked me last week to name them a film better than the book, off the top of my head I couldn't give a definitive answer. If the same question popped up today, my immediate response would be, Stanley Kubrick's 'Barry Lyndon'. A film I adore so much it even had me playing the Film's beautiful music softy in the background whilst reading Thackeray's novel, hoping it would start to dazzle the book. It didn't. That's not to say there wasn't much to enjoy about the Irish rogue's escapades around 18th Century Europe, but it just never reached the heights I thought it would. Thackeray spent ten gruelling years as a journalist covering burlesques, travel-articles, short-stories, as well as being a critic on books and pictures. His early promise came in the fashion of serial publications. Barry Lyndon (1844), opened up his golden decadence of the successful novel.

Written as an 18th century pastiche, the work draws a portrait of a dashing schemer who is a liar, a boaster, a self-flatterer, and womanizer, in other words, an arrogant toerag. He plans to enter Europe's social elite with the hope of gaining access to huge wealth through the love of a woman. In this case, her Ladyship, the Countess Honoria of Lyndon. A melancholy sort, who also has a son, Lord Bullingdon. It all starts off for Redmond Barry in Ireland, he narrates through his adventures, first falling foul of Captain Quin because of Nora Brady (who Barry happens to love). There is a duel, which he wins, but has to flee for his own good. He ends up joining the Army, and after deserting at the time of the seven years war, manages to establish himself as a man of fashion, worth and snobbery, and also a professional gambler, touring the courts and spas of Europe with The Chevalier du Balibari, who happens to be his uncle. This would eventually lead him into the arms of Countess Lyndon, safe to say she is filthy rich and highly important. Redmond takes the title of 'Barry Lyndon' after marriage.

He finds the code of respectability a protective shield under which he can violate with impunity every social decency, but this can only last so long, before virtue finally outwits him. Thackeray's sense of irony restrains his novel drifting into sentimental excess, and mixes scoundrels with the elite to good effect. Barry, like most of Thackeray's characters succumbs to the code of respectability. In rejecting all the stereotypes of heroism through which the novelist evaded his responsibility to give what he called 'the sentiment of reality', he explores married life deconstructing the convention of the literature of his times, that is, the obligatory plot in which marriage is very emphatically enshrined as the happy ending. As an ironic inversion of the romantic nonsense of his time, the astringent view of marriage signals the real origins of Thackeray's novels.

There is no virtue in Barry Lyndon, but he is allowed some capacity for what we may call genuiness when he feels the pains of nostalgia, affections, paternal love, and the hostility of war. The film contained a most heart-breaking scene involving Barry's young son, the emotions of moments like this just never felt as true in the book. Although when there is sorrow, it isn't pretended, Barry recounts the death of his son, making him appear less simple than first thought. The result of such oscillation between sympathy and impartiality, sentiment and cynicism, is that he dramatises the business of judging the characters while not encouraging the reader in their black-and-white views on morals. Maybe one of the reasons why he was undervalued by posterity in relation to Charles Dickens, his chief Victorian rival.

The problem I had was Kubrick's film streaming constantly through my mind. And the book does differ from the film in places, upsetting my rhythm. It's a decent novel on rogues and aristocracy, a bit boring at times, but captures the setting and time solid enough. Still prefer the film though, by some considerable distance.
Profile Image for Katie Lumsden.
Author 1 book2,707 followers
October 4, 2021
Maybe 2.5. This was an intriguing read, but I didn't love it. The main character is very dislikable – which is certainly the point, and his narrative unreliability is quite interestingly explored, but it makes it harder to enjoy the novel. The pacing was also a little off for me.
Profile Image for Kyriakos Sorokkou.
Author 6 books193 followers
August 2, 2019
Αυτό ήταν το τέταρτο βιβλίο που έγινε ταινία από τον Στάνλει Κιούμπρικ που διαβάζω φέτος
Τα άλλα ήταν Η Λάμψη, 2001: Οδύσσεια του Διαστήματος, και Ονειρική Ιστορία.
Μου μένουν δηλαδή άλλα 4 βιβλία για να διαβάσω ο,τι διασκεύασε ο Κιούμπρικ για τον κινηματογράφο.
Μπορείτε να δείτε την συγκεκριμένη λίστα βιβλίων εδώ:

Αυτός ήταν και ο πρώτος μου Θάκερυ. Μέχρι πριν ένα μήνα μαζί με τον Άντονι Τρόλοπ και την Ανν Μπροντέ, ήταν ένας από τους τελευταίους διάσημους Βικτωριανούς συγγραφείς που δεν είχα διαβάσει.

Τα μυθιστορήματα του Θάκερυ ως συνήθως διαδραματίζονταν σε προηγούμενες εποχές από την Βικτωριανή, την εποχή του συγγραφέα.

Το Πανηγύρι της Ματαιοδοξίας (Ναπολεόντειοι Πόλεμοι 1803-1815)
Μπάρι Λίντον (Επταετής Πόλεμος [Πρωσία] 1755-1764)
Χένρυ Έσμοντ (Πόλεμος της Ισπανικής Διαδοχής 1701-1714)

Στα ελληνικά το βιβλίο που διάβασα θα μπορούσε να λέγεται και:
Μπάρι Λίντον, το ημερολόγιο ενός λαφαζάνη
Μπάρι Λίντον, τα απομνημονεύματα ενός Ιρλανδού Μυνχάουζεν
Μπάρι Λίντον, ένας κουμαρτζής που πίστευε ότι ήταν γαλαζοαίματος.
Μπάρι Λίντον, τα χρονικά ενός Ιρλανδού μπαρμπουτιέρη στη Πρωσία.

Με άλλα λόγια αυτό το βιβλίο είναι σε πρωτοπρόσωπη αφήγηση και ο πρωταγωνιστής που μας αφηγείται την ιστορία της ζωής του λέει περισσότερα ψέματα απ' ότι ο βοσκός ο ψεύτης και στο τέλος δεν ξέρεις τι να μην πρωτοπιστέψεις.

Ξεκινά την ιστορία του λέγοντας ότι κατάγεται από Ιρλανδούς βασιλείς (που είναι ανύπαρκτοι φυσικά) μετά μας λέει ότι πήγε να πολεμήσει στον Επταετή Πόλεμο, αλλά τελικά ήταν λιποτάκτης.
Μας λέει τάχα ότι γνώρισε τον Βασιλιά της Πρωσίας Φερδινάνδο, τον Βασιλιά Γεώργιο Γ' της Αγγλίας κλπ. κλπ.

Παντρεύεται την Λαίδη Λίντον και παίρνει το επίθετό της ούτως ώστε να την κληρονομήσει.
Ο γιος της απο τον προηγούμενο άντρα της τον μισά, και έτσι ο Μπάρι Λίντον τον στέλνει στον πόλεμο στην Αμερική με σκοπό να πεθάνει και να κληρονομήσει αυτός την γυναίκα του.

Το χιούμορ και ο λόγος του Θάκερυ είναι αρκετά καλοί και μέσα από αυτόν τον αναξιόπιστο αφηγητή που φυσικά περιμένεις πώς και πώς να ψοφήσει σαν σκυλί ο συγγραφέας σατιρίζει με οξύ τρόπο τον τζέντλεμαν του 18ου αιώνα, την αλλαγή της Ευρώπης από την εποχή της αριστοκρατίας στην εποχή της μπουρζουαζίας

Το βιβλίο είναι αυτό που λέμε μυθιστόρημα πικαρέσκο, λογοτεχνικό είδος μυθιστορήματος, συχνά με σατυρικό ύφος που περιέγραφε με ρεαλιστικό τρόπο και χιουμοριστικές λεπτομέρειες τις περιπέτειες του ήρωα που προέρχεται από μια κατώτερη τάξη, και τα παθήματά του μέσα σε μια πολυτάραχη και διεφθαρμένη κοινωνία.

Όπως λέει κι ορισμός του Πικαρέσκο υπάρχει σατυρικό ύφος που περιγράφει τις περιπέτειες ενός ήρωα κατώτερης τάξης (ασχέτως αν ο Μπάρι Λίντον νομίζει ότι κατάγεται από βασιλείς), ο οποίος ζει μια πολυτάραχη και διεφθαρμένη ζωή.
Ο όρος Πικαρέσκο προέρχεται από το ισπανικό pícaro που σημαίνει αλήτης. Αυτό ακριβώς που είναι και ο ήρωάς μας.

Δεν ήταν κακό βιβλίο απλά ήταν τόσο αργό που με κούρασε, λες και κολυμπούσα σε σιρόπι γλυκού του κουταλιού.

Πολλοί λένε ότι η ταινία είναι καλύτερη του βιβλίο και αυτό σκοπεύω να μάθω κι εγώ σύντομα.

Βαθμολογία: 6/10
Profile Image for Tristram Shandy.
692 reviews197 followers
July 28, 2017
Yet Another Novel Without a Hero

William Makepeace Thackeray, who in his own time was vying for the peak of popularity among Victorian readers with the Inimitable Dickens himself, would by now be completely eclipsed in modern bookshops – as it happened to Bulwer-Lytton, for instance –, were it not for his still well-known novel Vanity Fair (1848), which proclaimed itself “a novel without a hero”, as it mercilessly satirized Victorian society. Although Thackeray’s way of narrating and constructing his novels is rather stilted and redolent of 18th century literary fashion – which, by the by, is rather appealing to me –, his manner of describing reality, of characterizing people and their motives is by far more down-to-earth than the sentimentalism and sensationalism of his major competitor.

Even four years before Thackeray wrote the novel that should grant him literary longevity, he came up with another novel that definitely had no hero in it. In The Luck of Barry Lyndon (1844), he chose a very unreliable first-person narrator, an Irish rogue named Redmond Barry, who tells his readers the story of his life, his struggle for prosperity and eminence, a struggle, however, that was mainly waged at card tables and in boudoirs, because hard work and honest trade are not among Redmond Barry’s uncountable virtues. The original title of the novel already hints at the fact that our hero rather relies on luck – and his skills at manipulating it – and the headings of individual chapters still retain this reference even if Thackeray later changed the title of the book into The Memoirs of Barry Lyndon, Esq. In the tradition of the picaresque novel established by Fielding or Smollett, Barry Lyndon leads an unsteady life, which even entangles him into the Seven Years’ War, where he fights in the ranks of the English as well as the Prussian armies and – mirroring the author’s critical view on the military – takes no great delight in it. Whether in the army, or linked up with his scapegrace uncle, Barry tries to get his advantages over people around him by bullying or by meanest intrigues, and it is a mixture of these fine cultural techniques that finally secures him one of the richest and most eminent English widows and endows him with wealth and the right to count himself among the English peerage. Nevertheless, Barry is better at achieving wealth and influence than at wielding and securing them, and soon his brutish recklessness heralds his downfall into disgrace, poverty, and alcoholism. Well, he was an alcoholic before, but with a view to his social position, one would not have called this personal flaw alcoholism, but rather referred to it as undaunted conviviality.

What can a reader expect from Barry Lyndon? Those who anticipate a roller-coaster of a novel, packed with adventure and excitement like duels, war stories, and the thrill of a scoundrel finally brought to justice, had better turn to some other book because Barry Lyndon is rather detached in style to the events its hero recounts. Thackeray possessed an extensive knowledge of 18th century life and history, and he uses it lavishly in order to have his rascally hero name-drop and show off lest any reader might doubt Redmond Barry’s connections and importance. Another typical Thackeray feature, which distinguishes him from Dickens’s theatre-like style that relies heavily on scenic presentation with ample dialogue, is a panoramic style of writing, i.e. Thackeray and his first-person narrator rarely zoom in on any particular situation or turning point but instead concentrate on the broad development of things. What makes Barry Lyndon very interesting all the same, is the obvious incongruity between the narrator’s high opinion of himself and his depraved lifestyle and actions, which he presents in a vulgarly grandiloquent style. In one situation, for instance, Barry remembers an autodidact who has been forced to join the Prussian army and who bears it with quite noble stoicism, and he scornfully refers to this philosophical stance as weakness and egotism, which he – according to his own testimony – heartily despises. Look who’s talking, you might think. From time to time, Barry’s bombastic fits of self-adulation are deflated by critical remarks of the fictitious editor of these invaluable memoirs; although these insertions do not really seem to be necessary as any perspicacious reader will easily see through Barry’s machinations, yet they are extremely amusing.

What I find especially fascinating about the book is Thackeray’s apparent disillusionment about people in general and his dissatisfaction with Victorian literary fashions, which adhere to romantic notions of poetic justice and which aim at the reader’s moral improvement. In his final lines, the author muses, “It is as right to look at a beauty as at a hunchback; and, if to look, to describe, too: nor can the most prodigious genius improve upon the original. Who knows, then, but the old style of Molière and Fielding, who drew from nature, may come into fashion again, and replace the terrible, the humorous, always the genteel impossible now in vogue? Then, with the sham characters, the sham MORAL may disappear? The one is a sickly humbug as well as the other.” For sure, there are more Barry Lyndons than Oliver Twists and John Jarndyces roaming the streets, the parliaments and the executive suites.
Profile Image for Sandra.
909 reviews242 followers
December 4, 2014
Esco esasperata ma contenta dalla lettura di questo romanzo. Esasperata perché il protagonista mi ha infastidito, innervosito, fino a farsi odiare, per cui il finale che gli spetta mi ha soddisfatto. Però….
La duplicità di sensazioni sopra descritta mi ha accompagnato fino alla fine, con prevalenza a momenti dell’una e a momenti dell’altra. Thackeray si è divertito a creare un Barry Lindon tronfio, bugiardo, vanesio, giocatore incallito, ubriacone, spendaccione, manesco, ignorante, un immorale insomma, che si racconta come il più angelico e candido individuo che ci sia sulla faccia della terra, l’ultimo gentiluomo in circolazione dopo il tramonto di quel buon tempo antico in Europa, “prima che la vigliaccheria dell’aristocrazia francese, in quella vergognosa Rivoluzione che l’ha servita a dovere, portasse discredito e rovina” sulla classe nobile cui lui si fregia (proditoriamente) di appartenere. Non è però la negatività dell’eroe al contrario Barry Lindon a dare fastidio; ciò che mi ha esasperato è il suo continuo autogiustificarsi, il costante attribuire ad altri le colpe di come lui si comporta (perché mi ha ricordato il comportamento infantile degli alunni che sono sempre pronti ad autogiustificare le loro mancanze e ad accusare gli altri, inventandosi una catena di responsabilità che fa risalire il non aver fatto i compiti assegnati alla mela che Eva porse ad Adamo nel paradiso terrestre, e che mi fa letteralmente perdere il lume della ragione). Il gioco riesce benissimo, perché la lettura è, nonostante tutto -o meglio proprio grazie alla scelta di Thackeray di far raccontare in prima persona al ribaldo le sue malefatte sempre accompagnate da idonea giustificazione-, spassosa e coinvolgente a tal punto che anche se lo odi ti capita di guardarlo con occhio indulgente in certi momenti , fino a riflettere, alla fine, sul fatto che chi ha trasformato quel giovane contadinello irlandese in un mostro di perfidia è quella società dissoluta e corrotta in cui ognuno mente, “mente il povero per avere una mancia dal ricco, mente chi è nel giusto, perché anche lui deve tenere discorsi arzigogolati”, in cui “chiamate onorevole il dottore, il cerusico pretenzioso, che non crede nelle ricette che prescrive e prende le vostre ghinee per dirvi all’orecchio che è proprio una bella giornata” e “chiamate onorevole la professione legale in cui un uomo mente per qualsiasi offerta”, che è invece pronta a condannare un gentiluomo pieno di coraggio la cui esistenza è costellata di sfide affidate al Destino.
Profile Image for Carlo Mascellani.
Author 15 books258 followers
January 20, 2023
Romanzo mooolto datato nello stile e nelle tematiche. Lo si può riassumere nella frase: "Storia di un avventuriero che, alla fine, nonostante il successo iniziale, la paga.". A eccezione di un probabile intento educativo e moraleggiante del buon Thackeray, non se ne ricava molto di più. È storia già sentita mille volte in romanzi simili dal tono picaresco/rocambolesco. Una volta finito di leggere, non lascia granché, se non una certa antipatia verso il protagonista (di solito, in romanzi simili, accade il contrario). Spezzo una lancia in favore della scena relativa alla morte del figlio (toccante). Per il resto, per quanto mi riguarda, è un no.
Profile Image for Lazarus P Badpenny Esq.
175 reviews142 followers
August 14, 2011
''...Mr. Barry Lyndon is as unprincipled a personage as ever has figured at the head of a history, and as the public will persist in having a moral appended to such tales, we beg here respectfully to declare that we take the moral of the story of Barry Lyndon, Esquire, to be, - that worldly success is by no means the consequence of virtue; that if it is effected by honesty sometimes, it is attained by selfishness and roguery still oftener; and that our anger at seeing rascals prosper and good men frequently unlucky, is founded on a gross and unreasonable idea of what good fortune really is.'' p.278
Profile Image for Alex.
1,418 reviews4,327 followers
April 26, 2017
Turns out Becky Sharp makes a pretty awful dude.

The adventurer is a stock villain in Victorian literature. With no money but plenty of charm, he or she tries to marry into comfort, sometimes with the help of one dastardly plot or another. Sir Felix Carbury of Trollope's The Way We Live Now is a good one, and Lady Audley; Daniel Defoe's Roxana is an early example.

"Dare, and the world always yields: or, if it beat you sometimes, dare again, and it will succumb."

And Thackeray loves them. He'll get deep into it with his masterpiece Vanity Fair in 1848, where he subverts some of its tropes and hammers on others; in Barry Lyndon, which feels like a practice round, he just exemplifies it. Lyndon is the cad of all cads, an unrepentant villain, the archetypical adventurer and one of the nastiest protagonists you're likely to run across. He has not a single redeeming feature. He's vain, shallow, drunk, murderous. He brags that "For the first three years I never struck my wife but when I was in liquor." He's a totally unreliable narrator - so much so that a fictional editor feels the need to break into the story to say "He's totally lying here, what an asshole."

Thackeray betrays Becky Sharp, but he treats Barry Lyndon fairly. You know what's coming - because he tells you, several times, that his story won't end well - and he more than earns it. In some ways this is a more satisfying story than Vanity Fair, then. We also escape the Amelia / Dobbins parallel story that no one cares about in Vanity Fair; the focus here is always Barry.

There's a little something missing here. An immediacy. You rarely feel like you're there for a scene; it's more like you're listening to an old guy reminisce about things that happened years ago - which, according to the framing story, is exactly the case. Rather than dialogue, you get summaries of conversations. It removes a bit from the action; I found it hard to engage. I don't remember Vanity Fair being like that. (Maybe that's why it's like 900 pages long.)

And it's not as complicated as Vanity Fair is, surely. I said it felt like practice; it's tighter and cleaner than Vanity Fair, but not as great. For all his charms, and he has none, Barry Lyndon is no Becky Sharp.
Profile Image for Paul.
2,306 reviews20 followers
June 12, 2021
I’ve been a fan of Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of this story for years now so I thought it was about time I read the original novel.

The first thing I had to wonder was why Kubrick decided to excise ninety per cent of the humour from the tale. This book is genuinely funny; the movie version, barring a couple of one liners, is very much not.

There is an old trope of the ‘loveable rogue’ in fiction; characters where, despite their obvious flaws, you can’t help but love them due usually to a degree of devilish charm. With Barry Lyndon, however, Thackeray has created the distinctly UNloveable rogue. Lyndon has virtually no charm, despite how he views himself, and practically no redeeming features. If you’re someone who has to like their protagonists, this book probably isn’t for you.

For me, part of the joy of this book is watching the titular swine get his comeuppance. This is definitely a rise and fall type tale and one I recommend to anyone who likes to see a true bastard finally get his just desserts.

My next book: America - A Prophecy
Profile Image for Laura L. Van Dam.
Author 2 books133 followers
October 13, 2017
Barry Lyndon es pícaro, egoísta, ególatra, derrochador, mentiroso, xenófobo, trata mal a las mujeres; no hay un sólo defecto que no tenga. Pero él se describe como generoso, bondadoso, valiente, lleno de cualidades, de alto rango y un montón más de calificativos que no concuerdan con la propia historia que nos cuenta - narrador no fiable si los hay. Básicamente él se cree que todo el mundo le debe respeto y que debe conseguir una fortuna debido a esos ancestros nobles de los cuales desciende (y que son al menos dudosos) aunque su familia haya caído en desgracia. Todo lo malo que le pasa es porque la gente lo difama y no conoce en verdad sus grandes cualidades. Todo es culpa de los demás.
La realidad es bien distinta, todo lo malo que le pasa es consecuencia de sus propias acciones malvadas y egoístas, pero no lo puede ver.
A pesar de un personaje principal tan despreciable y obsesionado por la posición social, el libro es muy ameno e interesante y fue un placer leerlo. Sacando la parte de las escenas de batalla casi al principio del libro, que me parecieron medio un plomazo, el resto es muy entretenido y una mirada a la sociedad del siglo XVIII y los tejes y manejes políticos y sociales de la época.
Profile Image for Maria Thomarey.
503 reviews51 followers
July 6, 2019
Το διάβασα σε2 1/2 μέρες . Σχεδόν απνευστί . Απο τις εκδόσεις "Ζαχαροπουλος" . Το είδα σήμερα και συγκινήθηκα .
Profile Image for Gavin Armour.
465 reviews100 followers
April 26, 2021
Für die Literaturwissenschaft ist William Makepeace Thackeray vor allem wegen seines Hauptwerks VANITY FAIR (1847/48 erschienen) ein Gegenstand der Betrachtung. In Großbritannien sieht dies natürlich etwas anders aus, da er auf der Insel neben Dickens einer der führenden Romanciers des 19. Jahrhunderts war, der von seinen Zeitgenossen gern und viel gelesen wurde. Doch auch die britische Literaturkritik sah Thackerays ersten „echten“ Roman, BARRY LYNDON (1844), auf dessen Erscheinungsgeschichte, bzw. Entwicklung, noch einzugehen sein wird, nie als eines der wesentlichen Werke des Autors. Zu episodisch, zu ironisch und vor allem in seiner Erzählposition ein bewusster Angriff auf die zeitgenössische Literatur, galt dies zwar als eine interessante Übung, nicht aber als wesentlicher oder gar wichtiger Roman. Erst später wurde die besondere und durchaus hintergründige Konzeption des Romans in ihrer ganzen Kunstfertigkeit anerkannt und vor allem gesehen, daß Thackeray deutlich wie nie danach, gewisse soziale, gesellschaftliche und historische Entwicklungen kritisch betrachtete.

THE MEMOIRS OF BARRY LYNDON, ESQ., WRITTEN BY HIMSELF, wie der Originaltitel des überarbeiteten Romans lautete, als er 1856 im zweiten Band der Gesamtausgabe des Werkes erschien, ist im Grunde ein Abenteuerroman. Erzählt wird die Lebensgeschichte des verarmten irischen Landedelmanns Redmond Barry, der mit allen ihm zur Verfügung stehenden Mitteln in die englische Oberschicht aufsteigen will. Durch widrige Umstände, vor allem seinem unbedachten Umgang mit Geld, landet er zunächst in der Armee des englischen Königs, gelangt dadurch auf den Kontinent, wo er an einigen Schlachten des Siebenjährigen Krieges teilnimmt, bevor es ihm mit einem Trick gelingt, zu desertieren. Allerdings ist das Glück ihm zunächst nicht hold, er wird in die preußische Armee gepresst und dient nun für den Rest des Krieges unter dem „Philosophenkönig“ Friedrich II. Nach etlichen Abenteuern schließt er sich seinem Onkel, dem Chevalier Balibari, an und zieht mit diesem Spieler und Betrüger durch die Fürstentümer Europas. Er will in die bessere Gesellschaft einheiraten und setzt die Lady Lyndon derart unter Druck, daß diese, nachdem ihr Gemahl das Zeitliche gesegnet hat, ihn tatsächlich heiratet. Nun ist Barry, der den Namen Lyndon annimmt, dort angekommen, wo er immer hinwollte, doch sein Glück zeigt sich wankelmütig. Er will einen eigenen Adelstitel, den der Hof ihm verweigert, er gilt als Aufsteiger, Hochstapler, Betrüger, wird von seinem Standesgenossen nicht anerkannt, verliert große Mengen des Vermögens seiner Frau, streitet sich bis aufs Blut mit seinem Stiefsohn Lord Bullingdon, verliert seinen leiblichen Sohn und endet nach einer heftigen Eheschlacht als verarmter Mann im Schuldgefängnis in London, wo er seinen Memoiren niederschreibt und schließlich stirbt.

Diese Geschichte erzählt Barry Lyndon dem Leser höchstselbst. Mit allen Höhen und Niederungen dieses Lebens, das ohne Frage wirklich das eines Hochstaplers und Betrügers war. Denn Lyndon schämt sich nicht, all jene ihm zur Verfügung stehenden Mittel zu beschreiben, die er anwendete, um sich seinen Lebenstraum zu erfüllen. Die Art und Weise, wie er diese Lebensgeschichte berichtet, ist die eines Angebers und Prahlhans. In den Armeen, in denen er diente, war er angeblich für seine rüden Umgangsformen bekannt, man fürchtete ihn, später, als Spieler und Geldeintreiber für seinen Onkel, ist er ein europaweit gefürchteter Degenfechter, in der britischen Gesellschaft, in der er aufsteigt, ist er ein bunter Hund, er gibt die größten Empfänge, schmeißt die protzigsten Feste in London usw. Es dauert ein wenig, bis der Leser merkt, daß diese Erzählstimme sich selbst gelegentlich ins Gehege kommt. Bis er merkt, daß die Angaben teils zeitlich nicht wirklich stimmen, daß hier einer sehr dick aufträgt. Und da dieser prekäre Erzähler zugleich geblendet ist von seiner eigenen Großmannssucht, liefert er zusehends die Beweise seiner Angebereien und Verfälschungen mit, wenn er ohne sichtliche Gewissensbisse immer wieder Aussagen – mündlicher wie schriftlicher Art – in seinen Bericht einfließen lässt, die ihm alles andere als ein gutes Zeugnis ausstellen. Es ist ein wahrer Kunstgriff Thackerays, seinen Ich-Erzähler selbst jene Aussagen, die ihm einen wahrlich verdorbenen Charakter und einen liederlichen Lebenswandel unterstellen, dazu nutzen zu lassen, sich zu rechtfertigen. Ein Blender und Verblendeter.

Besonders übel und offen sind diese Berichte vor allem da, wo Barry beschreibt, wie er Lady Lyndon mehr oder weniger in eine Ehe hineinverfolgt. Anders kann man es nicht sagen. Was dieser Edelmann da anstellt, gleicht nicht nur einer geistigen Vergewaltigung, sondern beschreibt ziemlich genau das, was man heutzutage mit dem Begriff „Stalking“ umschreibt. Noch schlimmer sind jene sich rechtfertigenden Beschreibungen dessen, was Barry mit seiner Gattin später, während der Ehe anstellt. Wie er sie demütigt, im Haus einsperrt, keine Mühe scheut, sie zu hintergehen, sie verhöhnt und immer wieder zwingt, ihm Wechsel und Bürgschaften auszustellen. Obwohl im Gewande des Schelmenromans angelegt, wandelt sich dieser Mann, Barry Lyndon, im Laufe seines eigenen Berichts zu einem zynischen, brutalen, gewissenlosen Opportunisten, dem nicht nur seine Zeitgenossen mißtrauen, sondern auch der Leser. Nur Barry Lyndon ist sogar als alter Mann noch völlig von sich selbst eingenommen, was ihm mehr und mehr zum Verhängnis wird, da er sich dem Leser selbst als das demaskiert, was er wirklich ist.

Thackerays Erzählposition mutet uns Postmodernen enorm gegenwärtig an. Es entsteht der Eindruck, hier habe einer recht früh in der Literaturgeschichte mit Erzählpositionen experimentiert und sich eingehende Gedanken um das Eigentliche und das Uneigentliche gemacht. Die Moderne und Postmoderne hat diese prekäre Erzählposition vielfach genutzt und ausgebaut, hier aber kann man einen Versuch betrachten, der seiner Zeit möglicherweise weit voraus war. Allerdings war er nicht ganz allein mit solchen Versuchen und Experimenten, gab es doch eine ganze Reihe von Autoren, die solche und ähnliche Experimente betrieben, dabei aber bei ihrer zeitgenössischen Leserschaft zunächst auf Unwillen und auch Unverständnis stießen. Interessanterweise hatte Thackeray in der ersten Fassung seines Romans noch eine andere Strategie verfolgt und ließ einen externen Erzähler die Geschichte berichten. Der ist zwar ebenfalls kein allwissender Erzähler, doch war seinem Wort eher zu glauben, als dem späteren Ich-Erzähler. Thackeray fürchtete wohl, seine Leser allzu sehr zu verunsichern und damit zu verprellen, verließ sich dann in der späteren Fassung aber darauf, daß der Leser die Ironie als führendes Stilmittel des Romans begreift.

Der Unwille, einen solchen Roman zu goutieren, Günther Klotz weist nachdrücklich in seinem Nachwort zur deutschen Ausgabe darauf hin, mag allerdings auch an der Zeit gelegen haben, in der Thackeray schrieb. Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts befand sich England in einem Aufschwung, die Industrialisierung schritt voran und deren Verwerfungen und sozialen Mißstände wurden erst langsam deutlich. Thackeray aber erzählte eine Geschichte aus einer Zeit, die sich spätestens seit der Französischen Revolution ihrem endgültigen Ende zuneigte. Denn Barry Lyndon ist ein Libertin, ein Aufsteiger in einer Zeit des Absolutismus, ein Gentleman, wie er sich selber nennt, der Kraft seines reinen Daseins meint, Rechte zu eignen, die mit jenem weltgeschichtlichen Ereignis, das Frankreich 1789 erschütterte, endgültig zu Grabe getragen wurden. Die Zeit des Absolutismus war vorbei. Und so ist BARRY LYNDON eben auch eine Reflektion auf jenes 18. Jahrhundert, dem die Geisteshaltung der Aufklärung zugrunde lag. Nicht umsonst wurde Friedrich von Preußen zum „Philosophenkönig“ ernannt, umgab er sich doch allzu gern mit Künstlern, Schriftstellern und Philosophen. Barry ist keine Geistesgröße, eher verachtet er Bildung, die sich aufs Geistige verlegt, wie er vor allem in Bezug auf seinen leiblichen Sohn berichtet. Doch besitzt er genügend Kenntnis von den geistigen Entwicklungen seiner Zeit – die er ablehnt, wie er immer wieder kundtut, wenn er von der guten alten Zeit erzählt, in der Gentlemen noch etwas galten – , um die Entwicklungen wahrzunehmen und auch die Widersprüche, in denen sie sich teils verfingen.

Thackeray schrieb zeitlebens gegen kriegerische Auseinandersetzungen an und es nimmt nicht Wunder, daß in seinem frühen Roman gerade die Passagen am glaubwürdigsten und eindringlichsten sind, in denen er Barry von seinen Erlebnissen in den Armeen der europäischen Königshöfe berichten lässt. Hier scheint der Erzähler selbst auch am nächsten an der Wahrheit zu sein. Denn er nimmt wahr, was wir Heutigen wissen: Die Männer, die diese Kriege ausfechten mussten, wussten meist nicht einmal, wofür sie eigentlich kämpften, töteten und starben. Sie waren Schachfiguren, die von Herrschern hin und her geschoben wurden, sie wurden eingefangen und in Armeen gepresst, völlig gleich, welcher Abstammung sie waren. Dies war im Siebenjährigen Krieg so, so war es aber auch in den Regimentern George III., der auf dem Kontinent regelrechte Einkaufs- und Werbetouren unternahm, um seine Armeen aufzufüllen, um in Amerika die Aufstände niederzuschlagen. Auch Barry stellt ihm, als er längst den Namen Lyndon trägt, Regimenter zur Verfügung – einmal mehr in der Hoffnung, damit bei Hofe genug Aufmerksamkeit zu erregen, um an den heiß begehrten Adelstitel zu gelangen. Zugleich begreifen wir aber, daß auch die größten Philosophen ihrer Zeit – oder was sich dafür hielt – letztlich den gleichen Machtmechanismen unterlagen, wie ihre Vorfahren seit Jahrhunderten.

Barry Lyndon, der alles anstrebt, alles gewinnt und alles wieder verliert, ist also auch ein Zeitzeuge des Niedergangs des Absolutismus, sein Aufstieg und Fall sind also auch allegorisch zu verstehen. Es wurde erwähnt, daß Barry ein Libertin ist. Damit entspricht er jenen Fürsten und Lords, die auch der Marquis de Sade so trefflich als verkommene Herrschaftsfiguren beschreibt. Wie der Marquis sitzt auch Barry schließlich Jahre im Gefängnis, genauer: Im Schuldgefängnis, was natürlich weitaus weniger romantisch ist. Auch schreibt Barry keine obszönen Theaterstücke, sondern lediglich seine Memoiren auf. Doch entspricht er in vielem jenen „Gentlemen“ seiner Zeit. Auch in deren moralischer Verkommenheit. Barry wird also auch zum Spiegel einer Klasse und ihrer (untergehenden) Zeit. Seine Verwerfungen sind letztlich einfach nur die, die er in der Klasse, die er anstrebt, vorfindet. Und die ihm – selbstredend – gefallen.

Thackerays Roman funktioniert aber auch auf anderen Ebenen mit hintergründigem Humor und einer subtilen Konstruktion. Er, der Engländer, lässt einen Iren eine Geschichte erzählen, die die Blasiertheit der Engländer hervorhebt, deutlich zeigt, wie die Gesellschaft Englands auf die irische hinabsah. Zugleich aber lässt er einen Iren erzählen, der zutiefst unsympathisch ist, auch wenn wir ihm anfangs seine kleinen Mißgriffe, Fehltritte und den sehr kreativen Umgang mit der Wahrheit noch durchgehen lassen. Spätestens aber mit der verachtenden Beschreibung der Art und Weise, wie er um Lady Lyndons Hand „anhält“, sie mehr oder weniger in eine Ehe nötigt, verändert sich dies. Und so bietet Thackeray eben auch ein sehr verachtenswertes Bild eines irischen Hochstaplers, der zu allem Überfluß auch noch zu sehr von der eigenen Großartigkeit geblendet ist, um zu merken, daß er sich in seinem Bericht mehr und mehr desavouiert. Womit Thackeray als Autor dieses Berichts den hochnäsigen Blick der Engländer auf die Iren indirekt bestätigt.

BARRY LYNDON wurde einem breiteren europäischen Publikum vor allem durch die Verfilmung von Stanley Kubrick bekannt. Kubrick gab an, vor allem die Geschichte zu mögen, aber eben auch eine Hauptfigur, die modern anmutet, da sie weder ein Held noch ein Schurke im herkömmlichen Sinne ist. Genutzt hat dieses Interesse dem Roman wenig, er dürfte heute ebenso selten gelesen werden, wie dies 1975 der Fall gewesen sein mag. Aber es lohnt sich, auch wenn das Werk vor allem auf den letzten Einhundert Seiten durchaus auch Schwächen aufweist, vor allem, da es sich ein wenig zieht. Doch kann man die Ironie auch heute noch genießen und zudem hat man es hier – literaturwissenschaftlich gesehen – mit einem Roman zu tun, der sich eine gewisse Radikalität zu eigen macht und damit eben sehr, sehr modern anmutet.
Profile Image for Tittirossa.
975 reviews213 followers
September 8, 2017
A metà tra il picaresco e le memorie di Casanova, la prima parte di Barry Lindon è semplicemente irresistibile.
Non si riesce a non provare simpatia istintiva per questo ribaldo truffatore puttaniere baro e quanto di più canagliesco si possa pensare, tranne la slealtà.
Infatti, BL ha una propria solidissima moralità, decisamente autoreferenziale!, a cui solo in casi eccezionali (insomma, abbastanza spesso) contravviene.
Di avventura in avventura, di sfortuna in fortuna, riesce a il sogno universale di ogni avventuriero: tornare da ricco e potente là dove la sorte ci ha visti nascere poveri e negletti. Ma, come dice lui stesso, "è uomo da crearsi una fortuna, ma non da conservarsela".
Perchè i mezzi per crearla sono completamente diversi da quelli per mantenerla. BL questo l'ha capito perfettamente, ma per una ostinata coazione a ripetere, continua a riproporre gli stessi modelli che l'hanno portato al successo.
Lui dà la colpa ai tempi (il finire del '700, la rivoluzione francese, una nuova morale che non consente ai gentiluomini di spassarsela degnamente, ....) ma in realtà è lui ad essere un ragazzo invecchiato male.
La fortuna quando arriva lo trova spolpato fino all'osso della sua ilare sfrontatezza, di quella leggerezza ed incoscienza che gli avevano consentito di mantenersi in qualche modo puro ed incontaminato, nonostante tutte le bassezze e gli stratagemmi messi in atto per sopravvivere. E così al culmine della fortuna inizia la discesa, sempre più abbietta e miserabile, soprattutto dopo la morte del figlio.
La costruzione di tutto il romanzo con l'avvicendarsi di avventure su avventure narrate in prima persona (e quante ne vorremmo leggere che B non ci narra!), di passioni, inganni (lo zio è semplicemente favoloso nell'ordire tranelli mantenendo un aplomb immutabile) e successi è una cavalcata trionfale, in cui neanche per un secondo dubitiamo che BL venga ricompensato per tanto ardore ed ardire.
E poi la rovina. Eppure BL è un eroe che non si riesce a giudicare male, la sua compagnia è talmente forte e vivida che sembra di averlo al fianco per tutta la lettura.
Profile Image for Charlaralotte.
248 reviews48 followers
December 21, 2008
Oh I got soo tired of Barry Lyndon. He never learns anything and remains a vain, foolish, pompous ass until the day he dies (which unfortunately doesn't come quickly enough). I did like the historical bits about clothing, horses, carriages, debt, gambling, etc. The rest...oh what a dull creature despite all his braggadocio. The intro said that Thackeray had added many more fake editor's notes at one point. I wish my edition had those notes. The few that were there were very amusing.

Also perplexed by how this novel ever became that movie with Ryan O'Neal. Remember the movie as being beautifully shot, but not much else. Somehow the character of Barry Lyndon (the key to the book) was completely devoid in the movie. O'Neal seemed to be a creature completely at the mercy of fate and beautiful scenery.

Oh well. Happy to be done with this one.
Profile Image for miledi.
114 reviews
July 3, 2018
Barry Lyndon è un uomo senza scrupoli, spregevole, truffatore, ambizioso, egoista, traditore, incosciente, amorale, puttaniere, ecc. ecc. ecc… e proprietario di un ego smisurato. Ma Barry è anche un personaggio vivacissimo, di cui ho sentito la presenza quasi fisica mentre mi raccontava le sue avventure. Non ce l’ho fatta a non provare simpatia per lui, e a dispetto di tutto l’ho amato.
Profile Image for Vittorio Ducoli.
506 reviews55 followers
March 24, 2019
Il capolavoro destinato a generare un capolavoro del tutto diverso

Considero Barry Lyndon di Stanley Kubrick uno dei capolavori assoluti della cinematografia. Da quando uscì, nel lontano 1975, l’ho visto, o meglio l’ho assorbito numerose volte, sia nelle sale cinematografiche sia in casa, avvalendomi in questi ultimi casi di mezzi, videocassetta VHS prima e DVD poi, che pur mortificandone, complice il piccolo schermo, la magnificenza estetica non riuscivano a scalfire la bellezza complessiva del film, fatta non solo della leggendaria fotografia, ma anche di una sceneggiatura perfetta e di una colonna sonora indimenticabile. L’ultima volta che mi sono immerso nei suoi colori e nelle sue musiche è stato qualche anno fa, in occasione dell’uscita della versione restaurata: era, se non ricordo male, pieno dicembre, e la sala non era riscaldata. Non appena le luci si spensero e la Sarabanda di Haendel annunciò i titoli di testa il freddo pungente da cui cercavo di difendermi indossando piumino, sciarpa e cappello scomparve, ed ancora una volta fui rapito da un piacere ineffabile, reso ancora più sottile dall’attesa di scene ed episodi che credevo di conoscere alla perfezione ma che, come ogni altra volta, mi regalavano nuovi particolari, nuovi punti di vista, nuove prove dell’indiscusso genio del regista.
Pochi altri film esercitano su di me un fascino così forte: Morte a Venezia e Ludwig di Visconti, Querelle de Brest di Fassbinder, Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto e La classe operaia va in paradiso di Petri. Amo moltissime altre opere cinematografiche, ma questi sono i miei film, quelli che hanno segnato la mia vita.
Ecco che quindi aprire finalmente il volume di Fazi con in copertina The blue boy di Thomas Gainsborough (per la verità una riproduzione troppo contrastata del dipinto) e iniziare a leggere il romanzo di William M. Thackeray dal quale il film di Kubrick è tratto ha rappresentato per me un momento importante. Forse per la prima volta nel caso di romanzi dai quali sono stati ricavati film consideravo l’opera letteraria, l’originale, quasi come un supporto di quella derivata, una sorta di appendice pregressa del film oggetto della mia venerazione.
Ho iniziato quindi il romanzo con l’intento più o meno conscio di leggerlo in funzione del film: la mia curiosità era soprattutto incentrata sulla possibilità di capire quali elementi del romanzo avessero più di altri ispirato Kubrick, e perché tra tanti capolavori del romanzo sette-ottocentesco britannico in grado di restituirci l’atmosfera di un’epoca avesse scelto proprio questo, non certo il più noto (almeno sino ad allora) tra quelli di un autore conosciuto soprattutto per Vanity Fair.
Sin dalla prima pagina mi sono però reso conto della difficoltà di stabilire non solo un qualsiasi confronto, ma neppure alcun nesso diretto tra il romanzo e il film che non fosse quello di carattere meramente contenutistico, legato cioè al fatto che grossomodo (ma solo grossomodo, si badi) le vicende narrate sono le stesse. Il motivo essenziale della distanza assoluta tra le due opere è dato dal fatto che il romanzo è narrato in prima persona - si tratta infatti delle Memorie di Barry Lyndon, da lui stesso narrate verso la fine della sua vicenda umana – mentre il film fa esplicito ricorso ad un narratore esterno. Lungi dall’essere una mera opzione narrativa la scelta di Kubrick mette in discussione lo stesso asse portante del romanzo di Thackeray, su cui si regge gran parte del suo fascino (e della sua importanza): il fatto che il lettore non sappia se e quanto di ciò che è scritto sia effettivamente accaduto nei termini in cui Redmond Barry lo racconta. Tornerò più avanti sulle distanze tra film e romanzo, soprattutto al fine di tentare di fornire una mia interpretazione delle motivazioni delle scelte del regista statunitense: ora però è tempo dimenticare per un po’ il film, di dedicarsi al romanzo per sé, come è accaduto a me subito dopo l’inizio della sua lettura. Ma prima mi sia permessa una ulteriore, piccola digressione.
C’è nella mia biblioteca un vecchio Oscar Mondadori: si tratta del Dizionario dei personaggi di romanzo di Gesualdo Bufalino. È una antologia che riporta alcune pagine di oltre 130 romanzi, dai grandi classici (significativamente inizia con l’incipit del Don Chisciotte) a opere della seconda metà del ‘900, presentandocene i protagonisti. È un libro che consiglio soprattutto a chi vuole farsi una prima idea dei grandi personaggi della letteratura, in quanto può guidare verso la loro vera scoperta. Finita la lettura di Barry Lyndon sono andato a scorrere l’indice del libro di Bufalino, e con mia sorpresa ho notato che l’eroe di Thackeray non vi appare. Il fatto che non vi appaia neppure Becky, protagonista de La fiera della vanità lascia forse presupporre che Bufalino non amasse particolarmente Thackeray, ma a mio modo di vedere si tratta di una grave dimenticanza, perché Redmond Barry è sicuramente un grandissimo personaggio di romanzo. Per chi non lo avesse ancora incontrato sulla carta o sullo schermo è necessaria una sua breve presentazione. Redmond, nato attorno al 1744, è irlandese, rampollo di una casata di proprietari terrieri ormai caduta in povertà. Con la madre vedova vive A Castle Brady, proprietà di uno zio. Sedicenne, si innamora della cugina Nora, ventitreenne, non bella e civetta, ma la famiglia di lei ambisce ad un matrimonio ricco per ripianare i debiti da cui è oppressa. Così Nora accetta la corte del maturo capitano Quin, un ricco inglese di stanza con il suo reggimento in zona. Redmond, disperato, sfida a duello Quin, lo uccide e per questo fatto è costretto a scappare, con pochi soldi in tasca ma una gran voglia di vivere la sua vita. Dopo un soggiorno a Dublino, durante il quale è ospite di una famiglia di impostori che lo riducono sul lastrico, Redmond si arruola nell’esercito inglese, venendo mandato al fronte sul continente, nel pieno della Guerra dei sette anni (1756 – 1763) che vedeva alleati inglesi e prussiani, contrapposti a francesi e asburgici. Qui ritrova il capitano Fagan, che lo aveva preso in simpatia a Castle Brady, il quale gli rivela che il duello con Quin è stata una messinscena organizzata dai suoi parenti per costringerlo a scappare: Quin non è infatti morto, ma ha sposato Nora. Alla prima occasione buona Redmond, cui la disciplina militare pesa non poco, diserta: assume l’identità di un ufficiale e tenta di passare nella neutrale Olanda. Incontra però uno squadrone di soldati prussiani, il cui comandante capisce ben presto di avere a che fare con un impostore e lo costringe ad arruolarsi nell’esercito di Federico II, composto in gran parte di mercenari e nel quale la disciplina viene imposta con metodi molto più brutali che in quello inglese.
Finita la guerra Redmond, ormai ventenne e copertosi d’onore in battaglia, si trova a Berlino, nelle grazie di alcuni ufficiali prussiani; questi gli affidano il compito di sorvegliare un giocatore d’azzardo, il Chevalier de Balibari, che ritengono essere una spia asburgica. In realtà lo Chevalier è suo zio Cornelius Barry, e Redmond gli si rivela come nipote: i due riescono rocambolescamente a fuggire dalla Prussia e costituiscono una sorta di premiata ditta di bari: approfittando della mania per il gioco che imperversa nelle corti europee, in breve divengono famosi e molto ricchi, anche se l’impresa è soggetta a periodici rischi e talvolta a forti perdite.
Dopo numerose avventure, Barry conosce, a Spa, Sir Charles Reginald Lyndon, cinquantenne irlandese che ha sposato una ricca nobildonna inglese molto più giovane di lui, Lady Honoria. Sir Charles è affetto da acciacchi che lo stanno portando alla tomba, e Redmond concepisce il disegno di sposare, una volta vedova, Lady Honoria, che pure in sostanza disprezza, per acquisirne ricchezze e titolo nobiliare. Redmond inizia subito l’accerchiamento di Lady Honoria, attirandosi il sarcasmo di Sir Charles, l’odio dell’unico figlio dei Lyndon, il giovane Lord Bullingdon, e l’indifferenza di Honoria, che disprezza la sua volgarità di noveau riche.
Tornato in Irlanda per seguire i Lyndon, quando dopo qualche tempo Sir Charles effettivamente muore Barry torna all’attacco del cuore di Lady Lyndon, non esitando a ricorrere alla violenza e al ricatto per conquistarla. I due effettivamente si sposano, andando a vivere a Londra, ma i dissidi cominciano subito nonostante la nascita di un figlio. Redmond, che nel frattempo si è fatto cambiare il nome in Barry Lyndon, spende cifre enormi per essere accolto nella buona società inglese, comprando anche un seggio al parlamento. Mi fermo qui per lasciare al lettore scoprire gli ultimi capitoli della vicenda umana di Barry Lyndon.
Tutto questo, e molto altro, è narrato dallo stesso Barry Lyndon, ormai settantenne, attorno al 1814, e come detto noi lettori non siamo strutturalmente mai sicuri che ciò che racconta sia vero, anzi: la sapiente ironia che Thackeray sa seminare nel testo ci induce a dubitarne ad ogni pié sospinto. Sin da subito sappiamo con certezza che Redmond Barry è quantomeno un millantatore, quando dice: ”Immagino che non ci sia gentiluomo in Europa che non abbia sentito parlare della casata dei Barry di Barryogue, del regno d’Irlanda: in tutto Gwillim o D’Hozier [antichi repertori araldici, N.d.R.] non si trova nome più famoso del nostro.” L’ironia insita in questa pomposa dichiarazione di antico lignaggio appare ancora più evidente se si pensa a quale considerazione avevano agli occhi della società vittoriana della prima metà del XIX secolo le terre d’Irlanda. Più oltre, negli splendidi e spietati capitoli dedicati alla corte fatta a Lady Lyndon, è chiaro, nonostante ciò che ci dice Barry a proposito del suo amore e rispetto per Honoria, che egli mira al suo patrimonio e al titolo nobiliare, e poco dopo è ancora lui stesso a dimostrarci di essere rimasto un campagnolo irlandese la cui educazione si è affinata tra le truppe inglesi e prussiane. Come possiamo quindi credere alla sua presunta fama europea di viveur, al suo indomito coraggio, alla sua abilità con la spada e la pistola? Eppure… eppure il giovane Barry ama teneramente ed ingenuamente la sua Nora, venendo ricambiato con disprezzo e derisione, e la macchinazione ordita a suo danno dai suoi stessi parenti per pura venalità sarà la causa prima delle sue (dis)avventure; eppure Barry è spesso generoso e disinteressato, come in alcuni degli episodi che lo vedono soldato prussiano, e sarà un padre sin troppo tenero ed accondiscendente con l’unico figlio. Come dice Tommaso Giartosio nella splendida prefazione all’edizione da me letta, Barry Lyndon è il romanzo ”che non esiste in sé, ma solo nell’interpretazione che il lettore non può evitare di correre il rischio di dare. È il romanzo dell’avventura di leggere un romanzo.” In questo (concordo ancora con Giartosio) risiede la sua straordinaria modernità e grandezza: in un’epoca, quella vittoriana (ma non solo quella), nella quale una letteratura con intenti pedagogici propone in genere personaggi in bianco e nero, o buoni o cattivi, schema a cui non si sottrae neppure un grande come Dickens, Thackeray ci presenta un personaggio sfaccettato, a tutto tondo, umano sino in fondo, pieno di difetti ma forse con qualche grande virtù, e lascia meravigliosamente al lettore la possibilità di formarsi un giudizio su di lui. Che questa fosse l’intenzione primaria di Thackeray è del resto testimoniato dal fatto che, mentre l’edizione apparsa a puntate su una rivista nel 1844 conteneva, per evidenti ragioni commerciali, una serie di note del curatore volte a confutare il punto di vista di Barry, nella prima edizione in volume del 1856, ormai scrittore affermato, poté permettersi di rimuovere la quasi totalità di tali note.
Accanto a Redmond Barry, e per mezzo di Redmond Barry, l’altro grande protagonista del romanzo è il XVIII secolo, è un mondo scomparso, sostanzialmente diverso rispetto a quello nel quale vive l’ormai vecchio Barry, spazzato via dal volgare Corso, e ancor di più da quello in cui scrive Thackeray, ormai dominato dalla borghesia industriale. Barry più di una volta lamenta come non esistano più i valori e i gentiluomini della sua gioventù, di come la società si sia irrimediabilmente involgarita. I valori che rimpiange sono tuttavia anche in questo caso affidati alla sua narrazione, ed anche in questo caso sta al lettore formarsi un giudizio sulla loro oggettività rispetto alla soggettività di tale narrazione. In aperta polemica con lo spirito dell’epoca, Thackeray ci dice che né l’animo umano né il mondo possono essere descritti oggettivamente da un soggetto onnisciente, che ciascuno di noi deve criticamente e liberamente formarsi la propria idea, raccogliendo, analizzando e organizzando gli indizi che ci circondano.
Chiudendo, è tempo di tornare al rapporto tra romanzo e film. Assodato che Kubrick scelse Barry Lyndon come base del suo capolavoro in primis perché si tratta di un indubbio capolavoro, carico di spunti fortemente visivi, ritengo che la scelta del regista di trasformare un racconto in prima persona in una vicenda oggettiva, nella quale lo spettatore non è portato a dubitare delle imprese di Redmond sia figlia proprio della sollecitazione implicita di Thackeray a interpretare il romanzo. Kubrick lettore lo interpreta dando fiducia a Barry, facendone una vittima delle spietate leggi sociali della sua epoca, oltre che del destino. Proponendo la sua lettura del romanzo, accordando sostanzialmente la sua simpatia al protagonista, e riversando quindi implicitamente le cause della sua caduta sull’esterno non ha più bisogno dell’ambiguità data dal racconto in prima persona, come non ha più bisogno degli episodi in cui Redmond si dimostra più crudele e violento (nel film non c’è traccia, ad esempio, dei ricatti e delle violenze con le quali costringe Lady Lyndon a sposarlo). L’oggettivizzazione del personaggio comporta, per essere credibile, una analoga operazione rispetto al mondo in cui egli si muove: ecco quindi la necessità di ricreare il ‘700, di filmarlo secondo i canoni estetici dell’epoca e in qualche modo usando gli strumenti dell’epoca (il celeberrimo impiego di sola luce naturale). Non ci troviamo di fronte ad una mera ossessione estetica: la riproduzione fedele del ‘700 risponde per Kubrick alla necessità di dare forza alla sua proposta di soluzione del mistero di Barry Lyndon in senso sociale e politico, realizzando un film sul Potere, come dice Giartosio. Per far questo, da genio assoluto quale era, ha preso uno dei più ambigui romanzi dell’ottocento inglese per trasformarlo nel più gelidamente oggettivo dei suoi film.
Ora quindi so che esistono due Barry Lyndon: diversissimi tra di loro, ma entrambi capisaldi imprescindibili delle arti di cui sono parte.
Profile Image for Jelinas.
173 reviews16 followers
December 11, 2009
I used to be a compulsive liar.

When I was young, I would lie all the time – to my parents, to my teachers, to my siblings, to my friends. Whenever I was asked a question I didn’t know the answer to, I’d just make one up. I once told my little brother that they made a cast of Abraham Lincoln’s face after he died and then shrank it with that machine from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and used it as the mold for the modern penny. Hey, he’s the one who believed me.

It wasn’t until I hit high school that I became a Christian and my conscience caught up to my tongue. That was around when I started to value integrity more than getting away with stuff.

But I think my secret past as a liar is what helps me to identify with the main character of Barry Lyndon. We both grew up poor, we both wanted to make a better life for ourselves, and we both had no qualms about telling lies if it meant getting us one step closer to our goal.

One of my favorite things about this book was that it was told from a liar’s point of view, so you really have to read between the lines. But Thackeray leaves just enough meat on the bones so that we can imagine what the animal originally looked like before it was flayed by Barry’s embellishments.

It’s a highly entertaining rag-to-riches-to-rags story, but there’s an undertone of pathos to it. In spite of his high-spirited style of storytelling, there are places where his happy-go-lucky veneer wears thin and the reader can see the desperation underneath that drives Barry to do all the crazy things he does. He wants to be comfortable, loved, and, above all, respected.

But his machinations get steadily darker and more desperate until all we can do is pity and maybe even despise him for what he’s allowed himself to become by the end of the novel.

After looking at what’s under that veneer, it’s hard to laugh at his antics.

The moral of the story: don’t lie, kids.


In a slightly related story, my fobby Korean boss was recently telling me not to believe a tenant who claimed that his rent check was in the mail.

“He always lie, Jenny,” he said. The girl who worked here before me was named Jenny. I’ve been working here six months and they still call me Jenny all the time.

“He say he send check, but he don’t, Jenny,” he continued.

“So he’s a lying liar who lies,” I offered.

“Yes,” he agreed, shaking his head disapprovingly. “His pents is on fire.”

That made me laugh.
Profile Image for Margaret.
1,028 reviews330 followers
December 31, 2009
Barry Lyndon is a classically "unreliable narrator". He's an Irish rogue who joins the British army after an unhappy love affair and then goes on to fame and fortune as a fashionable gambler. As in Vanity Fair, Thackeray is interested in representing his characters accurately and realistically, and his portrayal of the dissolute, amoral Barry, a rake who thinks he's a prince among men, is masterful.
Profile Image for Jeffrey.
40 reviews5 followers
January 26, 2016
Barry Lyndon is a fine, rollicking example of the picaresque novel, in the tradition of Tom Jones perhaps. Redmond Barry is ambitious and headstrong, meant for a life of pleasure and recognition, but there is one slight problem--he was born into a decayed, dubiously aristocratic family in Ireland. After fighting his first duel at fifteen, he flees Ireland and goes through a hilarious series of adventures: army deserter, spy, gambler and card cheat, seducer, and sycophant. Unscrupulous but endearing, Barry narrates his own adventures, writing at the end of his life while languishing in debtors' prison--the enjoyment of the novel lies in Barry's insanely distorted view of his life. Never mind his present circumstances, Barry tells his story as though it were obvious to anyone that he simply lived his life as he had to, and any faults belonged only to others--including those he cheats, seduces, and leaves dead after duels!

The only major flaw in Barry Lyndon is the last fifth of the novel. Once he convinces Lady Lyndon--possessor of the largest fortune in the three kingdoms--to marry him, his behavior goes from rascally and good-spirited to mean and abusive. In short, Barry--now the self-styled "Barry Lyndon"--no longer is a sympathetic character. On the way up, he is an underdog, and I rooted for him. Once he was on top, I couldn't wait for the novel to end.
Profile Image for Mel.
3,212 reviews176 followers
November 16, 2012
Vanity Fair is one of my favourite books and from the bit I read of this in the bookshop it sounded like it'd be just as fun. Unfortunately, the main character was such a cad you just really couldn't like him at all. I was wanting a likeable villain, like Becky or Valmont, but he was just a horrid gambler, wife and child beating drunk. The style was still absolutely gorgeous though and there were some amazingly beautiful turns of phrase. It did make me laugh in several places I just wish there had been something redeeming about the main character. I suppose Thackeray was trying to make the point that worthless rakes really were worthless rakes and shouldn't be considered to be the romantic hero. But they are ever so much fun that way, or at least more interesting when they have more of a balanced character (like Becky). I am glad I read it, even though it was disappointing. I shall definitely read my other books by Thackeray though i really don't think any of them will compare with Vanity Fair.
Profile Image for Shawn.
Author 2 books52 followers
December 19, 2015
The Luck of Barry Lyndon was well written and stylish. Unfortunately, I just could not find myself cheering for the major character. The back cover touts Barry Lyndon as an Irish adventurer and a likable rogue. It seemed as if he started out as headstrong, impetuous lad and ended up being a pathetic, bully and narcissist with no redeeming qualities. He grew more unlikable as the novel progressed. His alcoholism and gambling took over his life and ruined the fortunes of the unfortunate woman he took as his wife. Perhaps, I will like this book more the further I reflect upon it; it has me thinking. But for now, I can give it no more than three stars.
Profile Image for Moji.
54 reviews1 follower
April 2, 2022
احتمال کلمه رذل بهترین توصیف من از شخصیت بری لیندون، قهرمان یا بهتر بگم ضد قهرمان رمان ویلیام تکری است. بری لیندون سرگذشت خود را در پایان عمر می‌نویسد و لاف بی‌حساب می‌زند که چنین و چنان. جاهایی از کتاب واقعا خنده دار بود. و هرچی فکر کردم نتونستم تصور کنم چطور ممکنه این توصیفات در فیلمی که کوبریک از این کتاب ساخته نشون داده شده باشه. ترجمه هم که مثل دیگر کارهای آقای گودرزی خوب بود، فقط یک مورد دیدم که یک جا لرد حمامترجمه کردن یک جا لرد باث. غیر از این لحن کتاب کاملا و بی‌عیب و نقص برگردانده شده بود.
Profile Image for Marti.
355 reviews11 followers
April 24, 2020
This was not as good as Vanity Fair because I found parts of the story to drag a little bit. [There was one story involving a "sting" operation in Germany that got very long and convoluted.] However, it was also fascinating as it represents a somewhat less over the top version of Casanova in that it is seemingly typical of an 18th Century libertine who earns his money mainly by gambling.

Right from the beginning our protagonist struck me as not unlike our President who constantly brags about his noble lineage, brains, wealth, and the fact that he is irresistible to women. He blames others for his failures and is always an innocent victim, especially later in the novel where the reader can't be quite sure who the monster is, him or his wife (though I am pretty sure it is him).

From a serious documentary point of view, this is recommended if you have the time for it.
Profile Image for Leslie.
2,612 reviews203 followers
November 27, 2017

Perhaps I had too high expectations of this novel... I loved Vanity Fair & so expected to love this too so maybe my rating should be 4 rather than 3.5; I'll see how I feel once some time has passed.

Barry Lyndon (nee Redmond Barry) is an Irish scamp (similar to Flashman) but unlike with Becky Sharpe, I didn't feel the charm of the character. I also didn't find the same humor in this novel that had me laughing in Vanity Fair. It was an enjoyable book that I am glad that I read but it seems unlikely to be one I will revisit.
Profile Image for Carolina Morales.
285 reviews67 followers
April 4, 2016
(too bad I don't beleive in Past lives, otherwise, I would have the strong feeling I lived during the 7 Years War)

Barry Lyndon is my first venture into a Thackeray novel. I have tried and forsaken Vanity Fair multiple times and have been avoiding the movie like hell because I still hope I may finish it. In the meantime, this book, the Stanley Kubrick movie and its soundtrack crossed my path, so I gave it a sympathetic try and do not regret it at all.

Barry Lyndon is an Irishman whose temper is much stronger than his wit, however, he is not that much of a villain, more likely an oportunist. He is an unreliable narrator whose dark sense of humor is present even at the worst of his tragedies. If I could add a subtitle to this novel, it would be "Once you can't escape the weight of Fate, at least humor it down with alcohol and sarcasm".

Kubrick's 1976 movie, on the other hand, is a piece of Art in all senses. It has a memorable soundtrack, inspiring interpretations and breathtaking scenery & costums. How Kubrick was able to transform a pitoresque narrative into an epic/tragic drama, its beyond my understanding skills. Bravo to Mr Kubrick. Hats off and hands down to him.

Profile Image for Helen Grant.
Author 37 books168 followers
October 5, 2014
The eponymous Barry Lyndon is the ultimate unreliable narrator; as he lies, swindles, fights, gambles and flirts his way across late 18th century Europe he consistently presents himself in an unfeasibly flattering light. This makes for an entertaining and amusing novel, although taken objectively the "hero" is not at all likeable. The chief pleasures of this book are reading between the lines to the unsavoury truth, and the lively wit - I laughed very much at phrases like "a girl with no more beauty than yonder bullock"! I also enjoyed reading a novel that laid out the seamier side of 18th C life in glorious detail. The downside of the book is probably that Barry himself is in reality so unpleasant. He isn't an anti hero you can really love. However, the book is entertaining enough to carry the reader through to the end regardless.

NB I feel presumptuous giving Thackeray less than 5 stars but I do think Vanity Fair is a better book than this one so I'm going to anyway!
480 reviews3 followers
April 5, 2020
Me: finishes reading Barry Lyndon
Me: looks up the wikipedia page for the novel and finds out is based on the life of a real person
Me: looks up that real person and finds out what he did to his wife
Me: https://media1.giphy.com/media/LZQsVA...

This was a deeply unpleasant book to read, which was probably the point but dear lord, the misogyny and the anti-Irish jibes and the snobbery and the all-round hideousness of the narrator, ugh ugh ugh. What gets me is that Redmond Barry is a TONED DOWN version of the real-life asshat on whom he is modelled *shudder*

The wife had the last laugh in real life though, so not everything is terrible.
Profile Image for Chris Johnson.
40 reviews2 followers
June 19, 2010
A crazy story about a self-deluded loafer who wanders through Europe in the 1880s. He constantly fails at whatever he tries, but is under the impression that he's succeeded marvelously. A cynical book about human nature and how well people can deceive themselves. A fun read.
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