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Fiction Psychological

Modern Classics the Cunning Man

by (author) Robertson Davies

Penguin Group Canada
Initial publish date
Oct 2015
Psychological, Religious, Literary
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2015
    List Price

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In this perceptive and entertaining memoir of a doctor’s life, we encounter at least one miraculous cure, a bad breath contest of Olympian standards, tales of cannibals and Tsarist bordellos, medical solutions to literary mysteries—and startling insights into the secrets of a doctor’s consulting room.


About the author

Robertson Davies, novelist, playwright, literary critic and essayist, was born in 1913 in Thamesville, Ontario. He was educated at Queen's University, Toronto, and Balliol College, Oxford. Whilst at Oxford he became interested in the theatre and from 1938 until 1940 he was a teacher and actor at the Old Vic in London. He subsequently wrote a number of plays. In 1940 he returned to Canada, where he was literary editor of Saturday Night, an arts, politics and current affairs journal, until 1942, when he became editor and later publisher of the Peterborough Examiner. Several of his books, including The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks and The Table Talk of Samuel Marchbanks, had their origins in an editorial column. In 1962 he was appointed Professor of English at the University of Toronto, and in 1963 was appointed the first Master of the University's Massey College. He retired in 1981, but remained Master Emeritus and Professor Emeritus. He held honorary doctorates from twenty-six universities in the UK, the USA and Canada, and he received numerous awards for his work, including the Governor-General's Award for The Manticore in 1973. It is as a writer of fiction that Robertson Davies achieved international recognition, with such books as The Salterton Trilogy (Tempest-Tost, Leaven Of Malice, winner of the Leacock Award for Humour, and A Mixture Of Frailties); The Deptford Trilogy (Fifth Business, The Manticore and World Of Wonders); The Cornish Trilogy (The Rebel Angels, What's Bred in the Bone, shortlisted for the 1986 Booker Prize, and The Lyre of Orpheus); Murther & Walking Spirits; and The Cunning Man. His other work includes One Half of Robertson Davies, The Enthusiasms of Robertson Davies, Robertson Davies: The Well-Tempered Critic, The Papers of Samuel Marchbanks, High Spirits, A Voice From The Attic and The Merry Heart, a posthumous collection of autobiography, lectures and essays. Many of his books are published by Penguin.

Robertson Davies died in December 1995. Malcolm Bradbury described him as 'one of the great modern novelists', and in its obituary The Times wrote: 'Davies encompassed all the great elements of life...His novels combined deep seriousness and psychological inquiry with fantasy and exuberant mirth.'

Robertson Davies' profile page

Editorial Reviews

“Wise, humane and consistently entertaining…. Robertson Davies’s skill and curiosity are as agile as ever, and his store of incidental knowledge is a constant pleasure.” - The New York Times Book Review

“Once the word is out that a new book has been glimpsed in the bookshops, Davies devotees know that they must buy it and read it. The sooner, the better.” - The Washington Post Book World

“The sparkling history of [the] erudite and amusing Dr. Hullah, who knows the souls of his patients as well as he knows their bodies … never fails to enlighten and delight.” - The London Free Press

“Davies is a good companion. Settling into The Cunning Man is like taking a comfortable chair opposite a favourite uncle who has seen and done everything.” - Maclean’s

“Irresistible, unflaggingly vital. A wholehearted and sharp-minded celebration of the Great Theatre of Life.” - The Sunday Times (London)

“A novel brimming with themes of music, poetry, beauty, philosophy, death and the deep recesses of the mind.” - The Observer (London)

“An amazing coup. Davies has written a brilliant, never less than engaging work of fiction which is also a philosophical meditation on the business of living. I have not read anything so good in a very long time.” - Financial Times

“Wonderfully funny, poignant and never less than totally engrossing.” - Publishers Weekly

“Entertaining and intelligent…. Davies’s characterizations are rich (and just a bit quirky) and his commentary filled with humor…. One of those rare novels that can be wholeheartedly recommended for libraries of every type and size.” - Library Journal

“Davies … deftly combines metaphysics, magic, and modern medicine to tell a contemporary story with ancient roots…. Ideas, aphorisms, and wit are as evident as Davies’s more teleological concerns, which all makes for a splendid romp as well as an absorbingly literate novel. Davies at his best.” - Kirkus Reviews

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