Rasselas-Samuel Johnson   Leave a comment


This is a book from the ‘1001 books to read before you die’ list. It is relatively short and was reportedly written in only a week in 1759 purely to raise money to cover the cost of his mother’s funeral.

It became immediately very popular and is mentioned in many 19th century novels.

It is an apologue- a story designed purely as a device in which to enclose a rhetorical persuasive argument. Other examples of the genre being Aesop’s fables and Br’er rabbit’s tales. The plot is thus very simple, Johnson basing the plot in Abyssinia, (modern day Etheopia) purely as he was fascinated with such exotic places, which was in vogue at the time. The rhetoric is very similar in theme to Voltaire’s Candide.

Rasselas, the son of Abyssinia’s king has been living in a beautiful valley, called the happy valley. For an undisclosed reason, he cannot leave. He decides he wishes to escape, after a failed attempt, he tunnels his way out with his friend, his sister and her maid.

Once free they explore a strange outside world. They decide to search for happiness, finding such suffering in the world. They explore Suez and Cairo. During these episodes, Johnson places his views on society.

Knowing the style of the book, i was surprised at how simple and easy to read the book actually was. I enjoyed it much more than i had expected, i often find philosophical texts difficult to engage with. I would recommend trying it as an introduction to philosophical novels.




Posted January 3, 2018 by dianne7 in book review

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