A small man in a luminous yellow and bold red jacket pushed a well-packaged parcel containing a proof copy of Boris Yasmilye’s new novel, The Bastard, through my letterbox this morning. I will begin to read it tomorrow, Bulgarian dictionary in hand, and will return to this blog sometime late next week to water its barren soil with a few fertilising thoughts.
Before I do that, let me toss into the empty field a couple of earthy clods, registering my disappointment at a choice made by Yashmilye’s publishing house regarding the book cover. For those who haven’t seen it, it features a well-known painting by my third favourite Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte, showing the back of a man with well-combed hair looking into a mirror showing the back of a man with well-combed hair.
Across the oceans and seas we sigh. A Rene Magritte painting on the cover of an obscure European novel? One could not be less original if one tried. The fact is, book covers of obscure European novelists have been haunted by Magritte’s oh-so-mysterious images since somewhere near the beginning of time. All it takes is for the narrative to give at least a hint of a story within a story, or a cavalier approach to common novelistic trends, and some pigeon-brained sandbag at the publishing house art department drags another Magritte painting from his dangerously full drawer of well-worn ideas. Move on, say I! There must be something better with which to adorn Yashmilye’s carefully ordered collection of words? Surely?