Sunday, April 5, 2009

Story for Sara

Published in 1971 by the Albondocani Press, Story for Sara is a story by Alphonse Allais which was translated and illustrated by Edward Gorey. The first edition in illustrated wrappers was published in a signed, limited edition of 300 numbered and 26 lettered copies. This book also appears in Amphigorey Too. Copy #37/300 is shown along with the publication announcement card (shown above). The reverse of the announcement card is shown below.

This delightful cautionary tale tells the story of a (seemingly) good little girl who is actually rather nasty. Due to her own bad behavior, she ends up the meal of a rather large cat. The illustrations for this tale are exquisitely rendered, especially the night scenes where darkness is conveyed through crosshatching, yet every object in the scene is clearly delineated. A lovely book!

I find it interesting that, at this time in his career, Edward Gorey chose to illustrate (and often translate) works by a number of long dead authors. Alphonse Allais was born in France in 1854 and died in 1905. He was a well known humorist and avante garde artist in different mediums, challenging the pre-conceived notions of "What is Art".

Goreyography lists this title as an "A Primary Book", stating that while translating the text from French to English, Edward Gorey did a "virtual rewrite". Because so much of Allais' humor is related to language, wordplay and puns (just like Mr. Gorey's), moving from one language to another and retaining the humor of the original pieces have provided noted difficulties for many translators. I personally consider this book to be what Gorey has stated it to be - a translated text by another author which was illustrated by EG. Since it is not an original story created by Edward Gorey I feel that it should be classified as a "B Secondary Book". I doubt that Mr. Gorey's texts, which must be equally difficult to translate into other languages, are considered the original work of the translator involved.

By extension, The Grand Passion and The Doleful Domesticity are not "A Primary Works" either, since they are "Englished anonymously from Canton Dialect (1930) and illustrated by Edward Gorey". Mr. Gorey does not claim to have written the texts, but to have illustrated them.


Goreyphile said...

I have to say I like this book and I love the victorian settee on the cover. Of course the illustations are great, and you are right about the night drawings, how hard must that be to achieve. I have often wondered why the Salt Herring wouldnt be a "A" book also--if Story of Sara was one also.

ampootozote said...

I also love the cover. Have you noticed that the front and back cover drawings are actually two separate pieces of art? At first glance, they look the like the same drawing, but closer inspection shows "Sara" contentedly reading her book on the front cover and looking mildly unsettled by what she has read on the back.