I start to thank Jasia Reichardt, Nick Wadley and Willem van Dewetering and his publishing house Huis Clos located in Amsterdam for the book review copy of: Biografie van En Uitgeberij - Biography of a Publishing House Stefan & Franciszka Themerson & Gaberbocchus.
The book is bilingual and tells through the published books by Gaberbocchus Press the literary and creative life of Stefan and Franciszka Themerson.
I loved this collage of words, contributions, drawings, colors, books. It's the perfect representation of the life of these two wonderful intellectuals of the XX century.
I established nine years ago a great contact with Jasia Reichardt, niece of Stefan and Franciszka Themerson particularly when I discovered on the net that Stefan Themerson wrote an opera called: St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio or Brother Francis' Lambs Chops An Opera in 2 acts.
At that time reporter and collaborator of Tutto Gubbio a local free press of Gubbio, Italy, I was fascinated by stories involving people from different countries connected with us for a reason or another.
Jasia Reichardt sent me the book and I remember I translated that opera in half hour on a sunny Sunday morning. It has been the funniest story I have translated since now! about this religious legend.
I hadn't never imagined that someone would have portrayed our Saint Francis and the Wolf like that. Hilarious!
The wolf is pretty cynical, someone I would say, realistic about life and the dynamic of it. Disenchanted, in a word.
St.Francis seen as an ingenuous chap, someone too idealistic for finding a good place in this world. Sure a candid, candid soul unable to do anything wrong to anyone.
Extra-funny I can tell you that.
The dream the one of seeing the opera soon or late represented in Italy where St.Francis was born. But this one is another story.
The article was a great success.
I haven't never lost contacts with Jasia Reichardt and I have been invited by her at various art exhibits dedicated to the Themersons but for a reasons or another I haven't never been in grade to attend these past event in London but I don't lose the hope :-)
When I understood that there was the possibility of reading and reviewing this book I asked for it with enthusiasm.
Substantially this one is the story of the publishing house founded, created and wanted by Stefan Themerson and his wife Franciszka and the legacy that this publishing house leaves.
Stefan Themerson in fact said once as remarks in his contribution Nick Wadley that there will always be the necessity of keeping good writings available.
It's important. It's maybe the most important aspect of literature and books this one.
The love-story by Franciszka and Stefan Themerson interesting and wonderful. A great couple,very united, 'till the end.Stefan and Franciszka lived separated for three years during the Second World War Conflict.
Once reunited in 1942 the two will always live in London.
London has always been their headquarter in terms of creativity. They were true creative people, writers, painters, illustrators, graphic designers, film-makers, publishers and their characteristics were: originality, surrealism, eccentricity, nonsense, desire of giving an intellectual touch able to make the difference in the market.
Their books represented the synthesis of drawings, illustrations and words put all together. This mixture added glamour, modernity, a different vibe and energy to their books. Vivacity. This one was the essence of Stefan and Franciszka put in words and drawings.
Stefan Themerson added that he didn't go for best-sellers but for best-lookers books, because of the peculiarity of their personal creative touch.
Why naming the publishing house founded on 1948 Gaberbocchus?
It's the Latin translation of a word Jabberwocky used by Lewis Carrol the father of Alice in Wonderland in a nonsense poem where the main protagonist was Jabberwock. The logo of the publishing house is a friendly dragon, with a book or a fountain pen as sword.
This publishing house searched always for originality, profundity, brightness, surrealism.
Stephan Themerson wrote twelve children's books all original ones, giving to toddlers a funny vision of reality.
The first book to being published by the publishing house was Jankel Adler - An artist seen from one of many possible angles by Stephan Themerson while in 1950 with Barbara Wright: Mr.House Builds His House.
The idea of translating this children's book a desire of the couple but a first translation rejected by them.
Then, the meeting with ms. Wright. Later ms. Wright will tell all the most amazing and beautiful things about the Themersons and how it was thanks to them that she discovered a talent and a gift she didn't imagine at all: the one for translations.
Not only she collaborated with the Themersons in fact for the realization of this children's book, but she was encouraged by them to become a translator. If she did it, it was just thanks to them, she told.
The most famous book published by Gaberbocchus is Ubu Roi but I would want to mention by Stefan Themerson: The adventures of Peddy Bottom, Professor Mmaa's Lecture with a preface by Bertrand Russell. Gaberbocchus published by Bertrand Russell: The Good Citizen's Alphabet.
Other books: Comedy, Satire, Irony and Deeper Meaning by Christian-Dietrich Grabbe while The Shape of the River by Gwen Bernard wants to capture the magic of the Thames in drawings.
Kurt Schwitters in England: 1940-1948 by Stefan Themerson will be a visual experience for sure!
Gaberbocchus Loose-Leaf Series in 1958 dedicated the attention at these writers and poets: Walt Whitman, Jonathan Swift, James Laughlin, Charles Dickens, W.H. Auden, Samuel Butler, Huxley, Thomas Paine.
By George Buchanan I want to signal: Conversation with Strangers. It's an essay of reflections on the things able to keep us separated as people, individuals but also as nations.
Europa by Antol Stern remarks the end of a dreaming world and the entrance in scene of mechanization. The modern city seen with the limits that can bring to every individual. In general the poem traces an apocalyptic vision of the city.
This poem offers a reflection pretty modern about Europa and it was written in 1929!
Bayamus and the Theatre of Semantic Poetry by Themerson is so funny! A story of people with more limbs, eccentric, in the perfect Themerson's style.
But Franciszka and Stefan Themerson collaborated together as well in the creation of Semantic Divertissments. Franciszka did all the drawings and later Stefan Themerson added words.
If you like this story and if you have seen the movie with Johnny Depp by Tim Burton of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, in 1973 Gaberbocchus published: The True Life of Sweeney Todd by Cozette De Charmoy, a satirical collage-novel published for the 25th anniversary of the creation of this publishing house.
The Urge to Create Vision by Stefan Themerson is a book about the Golden Age of avant-garde cinema. Words are accompanied by stunning images. Stefan Themerson writes about movies he created while he was still living in Poland between 1932 and 1945. Only one of them survived that war and it was a satiric film: The adventures of a Good Citizen.
The last book I want to signal is another collaboration of this amazing couple: Unposted Letters.
During the war, and precisely from 1940 to 1942 Franciszka lived separated by Stefan Themerson. Themerson was at Vichy, in the Army, while Franciszka in London. These ones are letters, diaries, drawings of a girl in love waiting for his distant boy.
Books written by Stefan Themerson includes also nine philosophical novels. His books have been translated in eight languages.
Stefan and Franciszka Themerson were so united and they left this world the same year as well. Franciszka died on June 29th 1888 and Stefan Themerson on Sept 6th 1988.
The Themerson Archive at long in London is now to the National Library in Warsaw.
Very successful in Netherlands, Themerson called that land "My adopted Country."
Highly recommended book for discovering two beautiful souls, wonderful books, great intellectuals, and an imaginary world rich, funny and plenty of great visions.
I thank Jasia Reichardt, Nick Wadley and Willem van Dewetering and his publishing house, Huis Clos for the physical copy of this amazing book!
Anna Maria Polidori