30 thoughts on “Engelbrecht Again! – Rhys Hughes

  1. 726A65FC-4FF0-45B4-A2C5-8AAA3224959019B8F782-CE2D-4925-B445-E0282E725940B4EEA7C4-178A-494B-B37D-EF5BDA41F379E18B98F0-CA41-4F6E-8336-39A258037367


    “Now the Id purred like a cat which has been swallowed by a dog, the dog by a horse, the horse by an elephant, the elephant by a whale, the whale by a whirlpool, the whirlpool by a dying star, and the dying star, with difficulty, by a mouse.”

    That’s because a mouse can delete anything with just a single misjudged, misfingered manoeuvre. Or at least when mouses were mouses in 2008 at the time this was published. I wonder who else has read this book other than me and Jeff VanderMeer. Millions, I hear shouted. It is utterly mad, and I studied Louis Aragon at university in the 1960s at a time when I founded the Dadaist ‘Zeroist Group’, and even I STILL think it is mad. Even me. The Surrealist Sporting Club led by the Id, towards London, via Acton, to the Brit Museum where much is already stone without the sly-glanced intervention of Gorgons!


    ‘the thing that was not a thing’

    …as, here, a thing-in-itself, it seems. Not only Far on Bicycles but Fear, too, I guess, if you are persuaded by the Id’s Idea in respect of competing in the Tour de Trance, by a due methodical seeing-to by each of the old pier hypnotists on the South Coast of England. But why not the East Coast, too, I ask, living in Clacton on Sea as I do? Anyway, whether with Chippy or Chirpy on a trice if not a trike, or Engelbrecht himself, or any other number of named riders, this exercise in Deep Absurdism is worth every penny and farthing. Rex Warner, I remember his book The Aerodrome, by the way. And my mum rode a Tandem (not an Ace Double) along with her elder brother in the 1930s. She often took her feet off the pedals, she later confessed.


    As well as the irony connected with what is underlying the title above, there is a section here I cannot resist quoting in full, if I may be so bold:-
    And much business about a casino, and, inter alia, gambling chips as minutes in a measure of time, and a reference to dwarf Engelbrecht’s famous wrestling match with a Kraken. So he does wrestling as well as boxing? And oodles of wordplay and referencing, assuming you are ‘in’ enough to get some of the in-jokes, too.
    How can I possibly cover everything that is in these stories! I feel like I am a pioneer reviewer here, scaling the impossible Everest of Absurdist Literature. I intend to read at least one story from this book each month. Base camp towards life’s last ledge, where all chips are down.


    “The whole island of Britain was spread out below us.”

    I don’t know why, but I thought of the BrexId as well as this (2008 published) story’s Id protagonist, when reading it. On this R.A. Lafferty-like Big Wednesday (I know this author had not then read about Lafferty’s Slow Tuesday, nor Lafferty himself vice versa about the other’s Big Wednesday), we ride, along with the growingly familiar characters such as Chippy de Zoete, Dreamy Dan, Charlie Wapentake, Lizard Bayliss, Gamma-Ray Russell, Rex Warner (whose Aerodrome is the launch site for what happens here: Riding the Aurora Borealis), and many more. We also have reference to the Alpine enclave of Chaud-Mellé. This book is almost addictive, so far. Must eke it out more slowly, being Friday tomorrow.


    “It was obvious that an organic ego would contribute much more to the science of geography,…”

    My underlinings, if not underlings, above.
    Stemming from the author’s enjoyment of mountain climbing, a convoluted writerly satire, featuring the recurring characters in this book.
    Id versus Ego.




    “And the Id said: ‘Ireland has just collided with Wales.’
    ‘Ireland? I’m afraid I don’t understand.’”

    With that forerunner of the backstop, I have just realised that this whole book (writ in the early naughtiest?) is a zeno’s paradox prophecy of Brexit as a confused tug of wars, with here a veritable cornucopia of paintings within paintings containing the first paintings, worlds within worlds, möbius sections from Escher, and all the characters whose names have taken on rings of familiarity by dint of immersing oneself in this book, a book like not only the impossible Everest of Absurdism, but also like the most ever jaundiced Jarnydyce and Jarndyce. Thomas Love Peacock’s Nightmare Abbey, notwithstanding. And the Night Shade villains.

    Is ours a government of the people, by the people, for the people, or a kakistocracy* rather, for the benefit of knaves at the cost of fools?
    ― Thomas Love Peacock (1785 – 1866)

    *real word, look it up (relating to Trump?)


    This is an astonishing work reaching the actual impossible peak of self-referential wordplay (self as the self of the text itself) and no amount of reportage by me could convey what is ahead of you should you decide to read it. Is there anyone else out there who has read this? Other than perhaps the author and eventual publisher. Is it surprising that Night Shade had cold feet at the last minute? Meanwhile, I was brought up by my Welsh father to know about the poetry and Druidic festival of EISTEDDFORD, but I suspect he had no direct experience of it. Just pride in its concept, the word itself embedding the ID and the ghost of mountainous Ego, but without the G of my father’s initial letter of his own and only forename of Gordon. Lewis as a surname is as Welsh as Hughes.

    Stern measures, perhaps, but my isolated spirit has already been diluted to a shandy…”

    (My erstwhile review of Tristram Shandy as strong beer: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2014/03/15/tristram-shandy/, another book that was given its chance to show its author’s impossible ego – as potentially diluted by his id?)


    “I used to believe that the history of philosophy was the story of the Search for Truth. Now I think it’s more a case of desperately creating Security.”

    Not sure why I quoted that! Meanwhile, I had not thought much about this book’s narrator till now when he comes into his own, a man I assume. He falls in love with a mermaid, as one does, or as this narrator does. Or the author does vicariously. But there is a rude bit, explicitly pre-warned, about part of the process of sex with a mermaid. And there is something about Ireland fitting into Wales, and things about Mars. And other arcane literary and philosophical references. And badinage and rumpus. And much else.

    I once long thought that this author was influenced by Diderot’s Le Neveu de Rameau and, now, having recently encountered R.A. Lafferty myself, I believe this book’s author should be influenced, too by R.A. Lafferty. But neither of these influences are true. But what about literary osmosis. You need that at least to read this book!


    “— let’s hope the Inspector of Metaphors doesn’t brew analogy tea!”

    To tango with a book, you tango with the text, its meaning, what it means to you, but some think they are tangoing with the author. Perhaps Rhys Hughes is the only author where the latter applies!
    The title gives away the major conceit of this story, which reaches perhaps new levels of reading power needed to read it. We reach a temple where the Tug of War of Worlds happened, I guess.

    “Vast chins wobbled. ‘You too are just a fictional detail . . .’”



    Whether the Earth is being disheveled by Climate Change or by Trump or by Engelbrecht’s comet or ‘a quiet game of chess’, this story seems prophetic of many things that have happened since it was written. And not only by dint of that quote above. Read the whole story and gather the prophetic clues! But one thing I wondered about was the Ground Zero of 9/11. Was this story written before that event? We need to know. If it was, that might be very significant. Well, in addition to Black Tuesday in contiguity with this book’s earlier Big Wednesday (the Borges Twins, notwithstanding), it seems to evoke economic Black Wednesday in the UK. Meanwhile, I loved the phrase “an immanentized Eschaton!”, but I did not understand at all the sentence that contained it!

  11. The story that features the destruction of the skyscrapers of New York was indeed written before 9/11. It was written early in the year 2000, probably March or April of that year. I remember that after 9/11 I wondered if I ought to rewrite this chapter (the book wasn’t published until the year 2008, so there would have been plenty of time to make such changes, but in the end — for what reason I can’t remember — I didn’t change anything)


    “Typical of the dwarf to win a sport he wasn’t even aware of playing!”

    Luck being factored into this, I suppose, the nature of luck as covered in this story – all as seen in interface with Brian Zeno’s Paradox, a half of a half onward, like ambient music, I guess. These stories – this one in particular – are huge, with global trips, and multifarious references, characters, and I missed the ILLUMINATUS! reference yesterday, it seems, I think I read it in the seventies, the reference about the Immanentized Eschaton in its first line, I’m told! So huge, it needs many more Gestalt Real-Time Reviewers than just me, grappling with it, doing piece work or shift work, triangulating the myriad of its coordinates. And the birth of Fake News from the viewpoint of our last century’s Fin de Siècle when this book, I think, was written —
    “There would be no oscillation of relevance in the news we encountered, slipping into the past for half a globetrot and then catching up with the present for the remainder, like a cosine wave of incidents.”
    And much talk of the Monkey Trevelyan with a one-branch family tree from slime to him. And other more complex family trees in history. I need to employ a deputy coordinator, here. And JINGJING XU is mentioned here. Sounds like the name of today’s Chinese President currently in trade combat with Trump.


    “, full of the cosmic horror as the spaces between screams, what moves thee, or how couldst thou take such a journey into the fanatic Baghdad?”

    I’ll always remember first reading William Beckford’s VATHEK, and here the Caliph state is renewed well before Daesh, I guess.
    Who knows when this story was first written but it is about considerations regarding truth and fiction as well as alternate realities.
    What is the next lie? Hopeless Hodgson’s swine-things or Engelbrecht’s Googlies on Google?
    There is something remarkable about this story’s title. It seems to encapsulate much.

    “Our club will never retreat.”

    “Revenge, for sure, he would have. He would have revenge…”
    from ILLUMINATUS! by Anton Wilson and Shea.

    Ending with a colon, this story appears to be an intro to the next story…


    “LIZARD. You impetuous semiquaver, if I get bruised badly who’ll promote your career.”

    A play featuring UBU’s Jarry, or is that vice versa, by my green candle! It is enlightening that it takes place in Krakow, with a destructive foot, rather than a conflagration, but especially appropriate if you have already read CONFLAGRATION reviewed here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2016/04/29/conflagration/ where Jarry features and Cracow.

    This E(&)U play is followed by prose text headed – FIN –
    Meanwhile, I continue to need fellow triangulators of this book’s coordinates. It is too much to deal with for just one Gestalt book reviewer. I will be conducting auditions for others to review this book alongside me. Please contact me, if you are interested.

    Sorry if this is a plot spoiler…
    “ENGELBRECHT. In a day or two, with your help, I shall be Boss of the Surrealist Sportsman’s Club.
    TOMMY. You will assassinate the Id?”

  15. Just read the final two together in one huge mind-frazzling session.


    “I don’t reckon the Tories won’t get in again for the Labour party hasn’t gripped society by the cuffs.”

    Much more prophetic stuff here, as I am reading this today in 2019 when foul Farage goes hell for leather with the Brexit Party in the EU elections (results not yet in.) Abturdity!
    Meanwhile this continued rolling series of characters and cross-global cartographical anomalies and compromising women, continue here with a pirate queen and galleons and antipopes and antipodes and a quasi-OuLiPo experiment with words and numbers and moves of a knight in chess prefiguring this author’s own HOW MANY TIMES? And thirteen savage jerks.

    “But 1997 was decades ago!”



    “I also resign!”

    An HG Wells time-extravaganza. I won’t issue any end-of-book spoilers here, perhaps because there are none to issue! Rex Warner, Thomas Love Peacock, Nightmare Happy, Louis Aragon and the Borges Twins etc all stay in my head, some cross-legumed. But badly needed reviewing help for me (the art of description-interpretation-evaluation in tune with synchronicities) is at hand, though. Several others will now be reading this book, so as to help me out. We’re calling ourselves the Absurdist Reviewing Club. When the final judgement comes in, I will return here punching above my weight, and tell you what it is. Meanwhile, I will now prepare the well-deserved book of my Rhys Hughes reviews spanning more than a decade. Yesterday, I did one for Gamma-Ray Russell who also appears in this book, at least by that name. Not sure what Maurice Richardson would think about it all. Where Id that name come from all of a sudden?

    “A pure coincidence, I swear.”

  16. Oh, I only just saw the reviews here of the final chapters! Thanks, Des, you have done a tremendous job as always!

    I won’t waffle on too much. I’ll just that that Story 13 ‘Engelbrecht and Ubu’ is contained within Story 12 ‘The Destruction of Destruction’. That was my original plan anyway. It doesn’t come across so well in the book because originally Story 13 was going to be in a small typeface which might have better given the impression that it was a subset of Story 12, but in the published version the typefaces are the same.

    Therefore the prose section headed FIN isn’t really headed FIN. The FIN refers to the end of Story 13 followed by the continuation of the interrupted Story 12. Shame this trick didn’t work, but tricks often don’t. 🙂

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