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the Complete Review
the complete review - handbook


A Handbook for
the Perfect Adventurer

Pierre Mac Orlan

general information | quotes | our review | links | about the author

To purchase A Handbook for the Perfect Adventurer

Title: A Handbook for the Perfect Adventurer
Author: Pierre Mac Orlan
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: 1920 (Eng. 2013)
Length: 74 pages
Original in: French
Availability: A Handbook for the Perfect Adventurer - US
A Handbook for the Perfect Adventurer - UK
A Handbook for the Perfect Adventurer - Canada
Petit manuel du parfait aventurier - Canada
A Handbook for the Perfect Adventurer - India
Petit manuel du parfait aventurier - France
Piccolo manuale del perfetto avventuriero - Italia
  • French title: Petit manuel du parfait aventurier
  • Translated and with an Introduction by Napoleon Jeffries

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Our Assessment:

B : nice little volume making the case for adventures of the mind

See our review for fuller assessment.

  • "(S)omehow, the essay soars to tome-like proportions. Within the space of 60-or-so tight leaves, Mac Orlan’s whole life-spirit is laid bare. In it, he presents some compelling, if offbeat, notions about adventure" - Andy Merrifield, The Brooklyn Rail (9/2004)

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       A Handbook for the Perfect Adventurer posits that there are two kinds of adventurers, active and passive ones -- and makes the case that it is far preferable to be of the passive sort, vicariously adventuring in one's imagination and through books of adventure stories. Simply put: "Adventure is in the mind of the one who pursues it".
       The adventure story allows the imagination to run wild -- far better than actually running wild (though Mac Orlan acknowledges a few real-life (i.e. active) adventurers), what with all the inconvenience and discomfort attendant to that. In an age where "adventure has vanished from our living conditions", passive adventuring -- losing oneself in a book or a flight of fancy -- still offers a welcome escape, and one that it is easy to (generally) safely return from.
       Mac Orlan defends the adventure story and novel -- though he has quite specific ideas of what it should offer. He's disappointed that castaway-novels almost never include a woman on their desert isle settings -- and insists: "The passive adventurer must invite women -- and beautiful ones at that -- to set foot on deserted islands". Indeed, if there's a major flaw to adventure fiction he finds that it's that "bawdiness and perversity" have largely been banished from them.
       Mac Orlan also has his issues with some masters of the genre:

     Adventure books are dangerous. I make an exception for the books of Jules Verne, which are completely lacking in art and sensitivity and can only appeal to amateur botanists. The Earth seen by Jules Verne is like a huge natural history museum where every animal carries a label on its neck, and every plant a card in French and Latin with an identifying herbarium number.
     These books do not allow the imagination to wander beyond a permitted limit.
       The written adventure story should merely be a starting point; the real adventure unfolds in the mind, rather than simply following what is printed on the page, and the more there's left for the mind to do, the better.
       Translator Napoleon Jeffries' helpful Introduction also provides some background about the interesting and prolific author of this small text -- noting also that he's woefully under-represented in English, a mere three of his 25 novels, for example, translated.
       The Wakefield Press edition is a lovely little (pocket-sized !) volume that makes it easy for readers to carry it with them -- perhaps on their own over-active adventures, when they could use a reminder of how much superior the armchair/passive sort of adventure that reading is is .....

- M.A.Orthofer, 2 October 2013

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A Handbook for the Perfect Adventurer: Reviews: Pierre Mac Orlan: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Pierre Mac Orlan lived 1882 to 1970.

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© 2013 the complete review

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