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(12/08/2014) The Memoirs Of Satan by William Gerhardi and Brian Lunn. London. 1932. Cassell & Company. hardcover. 382 pages.

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   SATAN narrates the epic of mankind and the part he has played therein. From the dim days of the remote Ice Age he watches the growth of the world, the coming of man, the part played by love and passion. He gives his version of the stories of Adam and Eve, the destruction of Sodom, the adventures of Jonah, the tribulation of Job ; he recalls the great days of history when he possessed Tiberius, Nero, the Caliph of Bagdad, Cromwell, Marie Antoinette, Napoleon, and many another. Finally, he arrives at a Bayswater boardinghouse, an old man and very weary. He has his last great adventure, makes his last possession, and then his mortal remains are taken for cremation to Golders Green. FROM Futurian War Digest, a sci-fi/fantasy fanzine published in Leeds during the Second World War by J. Michael Rosenblum – (from Issue 13 (Vol. 2, Number 1), dated October 1941: ‘The Memoirs of Satan’ collated by William Gerhardie and Brian Lunn, (Cassell & Co 1932) is a surprising sort of book altogether. According to this, Satan was a collaborator of God, chosen to look after this earth because of his free and independent spirit. Mankind is due to an infatuation of his for a primitive she-ape, and he continually bemoans the fact that he did not choose a more sensible animal, such as the whale, to half endow with his divine nature. Due to his failure with this planet, Satan is finally punished by the All-Highest with the withdrawal of his immortality, and he dies, leaving the notes of his eon-long existence in a Bloomsbury hotel.’

 

  William Alexander Gerhardie (1895-1977) was a British (Anglo-Russian) novelist and playwright. Gerhardie (or Gerhardi: he added the ‘e’ in later years as an affectation) was one of the most critically acclaimed English novelists of the 1920s (Evelyn Waugh told him ‘I have talent, but you have genius’). H.G Wells was a ferocious champion of his work. His first novel Futility, was written while he was at Cambridge and drew on his experiences in Russia fighting (or attempting to fight) the Bolsheviks, along with his childhood experiences visiting pre-revolutionary Russia. Some say that it was the first work in English to fully explore the theme of ‘waiting’ later made famous by Samuel Beckett in WAITING FOR GODOT, but it is probably more apt to recognize a common comic nihilism between those two figures. His next novel, THE POLYGLOTS is probably his masterpiece (although some argue for DOOM). Again it deals with Russia (Gerhardie was strongly influenced by the tragi-comic style of Russian writers such as Chekhov who he wrote a study of while in College). He collaborated with Hugh Kingsmill on the biography ‘The Casanova Fable’, his friendship with Hugh being both a source of conflict over women and a great intellectual stimulus. After World War II Gerhardie’s star waned, and he became unfashionable, and although he continued to write, he had nothing published after 1939. After a period of poverty-stricken oblivion, he lived to see two ‘definitive collected works’ published by Macdonald (in 1947-49 and then revised again in 1970-74). More recently, both Prion and New Directions Press have been reissuing his works. Asked how to say his name, he told The Literary Digest ‘Pronounced jer (as Ger in Gerald) hardy, with the accent on the a: jer-har’dy. This is the way I and my relatives pronounce it, tho I am told it is incorrect. Philologists are of the opinion that it should be pronounced with the g as in Gertrude. I believe they are right. I, however, cling to the family habit of mispronouncing it. But I do so without obstinacy. If the world made it worth my while I would side with the multitude.’ (Charles Earle Funk, What’s the Name, Please?, Funk & Wagnalls, 1936). 

 

Brian Lunn (1893–1956) was a British writer. He was born in Bloomsbury, London to Methodist parents. He had a somewhat Puritanical upbringing, his father Henry Simpson Lunn (1859-1939, founder of Lunn's Travel agency that would become Lunn Poly) having strong religious beliefs which were in conflict with his talent as a businessman. Arnold Lunn and Hugh Kingsmill were his brothers. His most important work as a writer was 'Switchback', his autobiography published in 1948. Its highlight is Brian's description of a mental breakdown he had while serving in Mesopotamia in the 11th Black Watch. The onset of his breakdown was described as follows: 'Men and beasts passed through the haze, black outlines; a troup of mules with Indian driver was a stately silhouette; shambling after them a bucket-carrying menial with tousled turban and bedraggled shirt flapping round flexed knees was an immortal grotesque, raised above the plane of human need and anxiety. The Platonic Idea, as interpreted by Schopenhauer, the basis of art. Removed from all appeal to the will, the horrible was transmuted into the beautiful. He was, in fact, a sanitary man staggering back from a punishment fatigue; constantly in trouble, he would incur more fatigues, with stoppages of pay, staggering in the bog of inefficiency under implacable authority. ' '...I looked along the river banks - tents and incinerators, horses and mules, soldiers, native and European, a complex of endeavour in an enterprise as unreal as all the day-to-day needs and anxieties and discomforts, ambitions and humiliations of each individual, were real.' ‘Unreal? The word came back to me as a sudden illumination. That was it, it was all a staged show.' The delusions which accompanied this insight were hardly more absurd than the futilities of war. His other books were a biography of Martin Luther, a travel guide to Belgium and a history of the Rothschild family. "Salvation Dynasty" was Brian Lunn's account of the Salvation Army's founders.

 

 

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