Wednesday, September 1, 2010
NYRB Challenge #41 & 42: Fighting Tyranny With Art. . .
The Jokers by Albert Cossery, translated by Anna Moschovakis, follows four friends, who disgusted by the draconian policies of their governor, plot a unique form of protest. Instead of resorting to violence, they will become, "a new, budding breed of revolutionary, scathing and funny", who will look upon government officials as, "nothing but puppets pulled by strings, their words and gestures nothing but the grotesque convulsions of a buffoon". They devise a subversive plot to plaster the city with posters of the governor complete with flattering comments of praise, in the hopes that people will think the campaign came from the leader himself, and deride him for his vanity. These "jokers" attract the attention not only of the authorities but also the underground revolutionaries they have turned their backs on. And along the way, each has his own personal troubles to deal with; this comic novel deals as much with creating a personal as well as a political philosophy by which to live. Fans of either Camus or Orwell would enjoy this. There's a fresh, carefree style to Cossery's writing that I really love. He can skewer, but also has a great tenderness for his characters and their predicaments, and their adventures made me laugh several times. Another great writer discovered thanks to NYRB.
And in my view, the truth is definitely stranger!