Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Masterpiece of the Ridiculous by Jocelyn Brooke

In 1956 Jocelyn Brooke, who had been quietly publishing a series of well-received novels for ten years, released The Crisis in Bulgaria or Ibsen to the Rescue with Chatto & Windus. It is a piece of nonsense, literally, like Edward Lear nonsense, but in prose. Wonderful, spirited, ridiculous and English-ly eccentric nonsense. But what makes it s piece of genius is the illustrations, of which these are a selection. They are all collages by Brooke himself using engravings, probably from Victorian and Edwardian periodicals and books. Each page has one or two paragraphs of text facing one of the collages. Like all nonsense, it is almost impossible to precis. An extract from the first page might give some idea:

"During the abnormally torrid summer of 1886, a series of extraordinary and disturbing events occurred in the Bulgarian capital...
...On the night of the 21st August, a quantity of incendiary bombs together with certain objects described, in semi-official communication to the press, as "Indelicate", were dropped from a balloon in the vicinity of the Royal Palace.
This ill-timed jest resulted in a perceptible lowering of public morale."

And the book goes on to tell the story of the events which follow in ever increasing levels of outrageousness until the timely intervention of the playwright Ibsen brings order back to the chaos. The book is something of a masterpiece of the ridiculous. It has never been reprinted.

1 comment:

DA said...

These are wonderful . . . and a world to which I think I could happily sojurn.

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