cover image Stories 1, 2, 3, 4

Stories 1, 2, 3, 4

Eugène Ionesco, illus. by Etienne Delessert. McSweeney’s McMullens, $19.95 (112p) ISBN 978-1-936365-51-7

First published in France as four separate books between 1969 and 1976, Ionesco’s snippets of playful conversation between Papa, Mama, their daughter Josette, and Jacqueline the maid return in a single volume. Delessert, the original illustrator of the first two stories, has provided splendid new illustrations for the others and a new English translation as well. The French setting and comfortable social circumstances of the family (in the first story, the maid brings breakfast to Papa and Mama, who are lying in bed after a night of carousing) may put some readers off, but those who push on will find many delights. In Story 3, the father tells Josette about an airplane journey they’ll take together; Delessert draws a jaunty, toy-size airplane that sails past the concierge, over the Paris rooftops, and on to the moon. “Pretty good, it’s melon,” Papa says, sampling a piece of the moon. “Let’s put some sugar on it,” says Josette. Visual quotes (including plenty of Ionesco rhinoceri) pop up everywhere, and Ionesco’s surrealist drollery (“Maybe I’m in the dining room. You should check”) is as fresh as ever. Ages 6–10. (Sept.)