The Story of King Kabul the First and Gawain the Kitchen Boy

Max Jacob, Author, Maria Green, Translator, Moishe Black, Translator University of Nebraska Press $28 (85p) ISBN 978-0-8032-2577-0
Widely considered a founder of French surrealism, Jacob (1876-1944) liked to combine seriousness with verbal clowning in his poetry. In the two children's tales contained in this volume, written in 1904 and 1923 but first published in 1971 in France, the emphasis is on the clowning. The eponymous story takes place in a faraway time and a fantasy place, and features a kitchen-boy who uses his culinary excellence to win the affections first of King Kabul, and then of his daughter. The humpbacked Toulic of ``Vulcan's Crown'' has a vision of Jesus that leads to a odyssey in which he flies on a fish's back and becomes the King of the Cheeses. Jacob's language is often mock-serious and delightfully ironic (``All the guards had been poisoned by a traitor disguised as a vendor of licorice-water''). The attention paid to the sensual particulars of cooking and the playfulness with language are very French, and the translation manages to convey this quality and to make the text both readable and contemporary (``She would marry none but a young man with job training''). Black-and-white line drawings accompany both tales, adding goofy-looking, bulbous-nosed cartoonish figures to the already bouncy text. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/28/1994
Release date: 03/01/1994
Hardcover - 78 pages - 978-0-8032-7577-5
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