East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Boxing with Engelbrecht

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Sometimes I feel stupid.
What, you say, only sometimes?
Yeah, laugh all you want.

51hg8Eyl2-L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Consider this – back in the ’90s I got myself a copy of Cawthorn & Moorcock’s Fantasy, the 100 Best Books. It was a great read, and an excellent tool for discovering new books to read.
I therefore started working through the list, checking out the books I already knew (about half of the list), and beginning a hunt for the remaining titles.

Of them all, one was so weird, I suspected for years the authors had simply made it up as a prank.
The book was Maurice Richardson‘s The Exploits of Engelbrecht – a 1950 collection of stories, it was supposedly (?) last published in 19771, and the basic reaction of book dealers, in those pre-Amazon years was something like

no way, man!

And when finally finding books online became easier, I discovered that

  • either the prank was a very elaborate one, or the book had actually been published

  • it was, let’s say, extravagantly priced

And so, it slipped from my mind.
No really, it did.
I sometimes sighed, contemplating the cherry blossoms under the moonlight, reflecting on the fact that I would never have enough money to get me a copy of that holy grail of fantasy fiction.
But let’s just say I had reached the conclusion I’d never read it.
If it actually existed.

Richardson-EngelbrechtWell, less than one hour ago I found out the book’s available in ebook.
And it’s been for over a year.
And it goes for less than four bucks.
And yes, I do feel stupid.

What are we talking about?

“The Exploits of Engelbrecht is English surrealism at its greatest. Witty and fantastical, Maurice Richardson was light years ahead of his time. Unmissable.” – J.G. Ballard

The Exploits of Engelbrecht, abstracted from the Chronicles of the Surrealist Sportsman’s Club is a collection of fifteen short stories chronicling the activities of the Surrealist Sportsman’s Club – the sort of institution that I would love to join.
If it actually existed.

searle03The main character is the titular Engelbrecht, a dwarf surrealist boxer – meaning that he is a short person specialized in fighting clocks (because that’s what surrealist boxing’s all about).
But the esteemed Engelbrecht does not limit himself to punching the clock – and he gets involved in a series of… well, surreal adventures.
I guess it figures, what with him being a surrealist boxer and a member of the Surrealist Sportsman’s Club.

“To my mind one of the best examples of imaginative fiction to appear in England since the war is Maurice Richardson’s The Exploits of Engelbrecht… These ‘Chronicles of the Surrealist Sportman’s Club’ are superbly laconic pieces, concentrating more original invention into fewer words than almost any writer I can think of. They outshine, for me, almost anything else remotely like them, including the stories of Borges and other much admired imaginative writers.” — Michael Moorcock

So, this is taking precedence over everything else, including my MOOCs and the revision of my second novel.
Today, I’ll brew myself some strong Chinese tea, and then I’ll curl up with Engelbrecht.
Finally, after twenty years!

  1. there was a subsequent edition in the year 2000, but in the ’90s, for pretty obvious reasons, I did not know about it. 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

One thought on “Boxing with Engelbrecht

  1. Enjoy the reading! I’ll probably follow suit.


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