Friday, 24 April 2009

Off the shelf: Ungerer 1

‘The Underground Sketchbook of Tomi Ungerer’ is one of those books that were talked about in hushed tones when I was at college. It was considered to be up there with the best books of cartoons ever published (the others being by Steinberg), but nobody I knew seemed to have a copy. Eventually I stumbled across it, in great excitement, in a second-hand bookshop when I wasn’t particularly looking for anything. My copy (Bodley Head 1964) has no dust cover. It’s cloth-bound in bright yellow with bright red endpapers and is printed in black with occasional red spot colour.

It’s not really for anyone who goes to church on Sundays or has a rosy view of human nature. However I thought I’d post some of my favourite drawings from it this week. This one to start is in amongst the Preface, by Jonathan Miller, who writes: ‘Ungerer’s is a world in which the distinctions between men and the machines they have invented vanish in a chaos of mutual imitation and fierce competition. It is also a world in which men exploit each other like machines, in which men and women use each other as mechanical devices for their mutual satisfaction… He has an excruciating inventive flair, cruelly comic, and those who read this volume…will have enjoyed a sulphuric moral experience.’ I’ll write more about Ungerer in later posts.

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