Albert Cossery was a man in no hurry, and in this he hoped to lead by example.
Asked why he wrote, he replied: so that his readers would not get up for work the next day.
Cossery’s heroes are usually dandies and thieves, unfettered by possessions or obligations; impoverished but aristocratic idlers who can suck the marrow of joy from the meager bones life tosses their way. They are the descendants of Baudelaire’s flâneur, of the Surrealists with their rejection of the sacrosanct work ethic, of the Situationists and their street-theater shenanigans, not to mention the peripatetic Beats or the countercultural ‘dropouts’ of the 1960s. Henry Miller, who raised dolce far niente to an art form, praised Cossery’s writing as ‘rare, exotic, haunting, unique.’ Whether Cossery’s merry pranksters wish merely to have a good time or, as in The Jokers, to wage an all-out campaign of raillery against the powers that be, there is one belief they all share: the only true recourse against a world governed by ‘scoundrels’ is an utter disregard for convention, including the convention of taking anything seriously.
—from a review by Mark Polizzotti of Albert Cossery's work in The Nation. With new “scoundrels” being voted on in the recent Egyptian election, Cossery provides his readers with a lighter, more surreal look at politics and life in the streets of Cairo.
“[The madwoman said] ‘How is humanity these days, prince? I remember it as being nasty.’
She seemed to be asking about a foreign country she had once visited in her youth but to which she’d never returned.
‘It still is,’ responded Heykal. ‘But human foolishness remains entertaining enough.’”
Indolent beer sipping is the perfect way to enjoy the works of Albert Cossery.
Book: The Jokers by Albert Cossery
Beer: UFO Hefeweizen
Last night we had a panel discussion on Albert Cossery at the WORD Brooklyn bookstore to celebrate the launch of our edition of Proud Beggars, and the New Directions edition of The Colors of Infamy. Pictured from left to right is the moderator Robyn Creswell, poetry editor at The Paris Review who also wrote an article about Cossery in Harper’s magazine in February of this year; Alyson Waters, who wrote the introduction and revised the translation of Proud Beggars and translated The Color of Infamy; Anna Moschovakis, who translated The Jokers; and Anna Della Subin, associate editor of Bidoun who published an excerpt from The Colors of Infamy in their issue on Egypt. We had good showing despite the rain, and played a clip from Asmaa Bakri’s film adaptation of Proud Beggars, seen in the background. And no, that’s is not The Good Witch of the North arriving, it’s from an effect of the flash.