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This review is taken from PN Review 35, Volume 10 Number 3, January - February 1984.

WYNDHAM LEWIS AND THE WINDMILLS Wyndham Lewis, The Complete Wild Body. Edited by Bernard Lafourcade (The Black Sparrow Press, Santa Barbara) $12.50 and $20.00.

Readers of Enemy News will welcome this scholarly, sumptuously produced addition to the Lewis cannon. A taste for Lewis's writings is rather like an addiction to snuff or red cabbage: life's blood to those who indulge but incomprehensible to everybody else. The contents of this volume relate to that prehistoric phenomenon, the Wyndham Lewis theory of the comic, culled from a reading of Bergson's Le Rire. The dust blown off, it reveals itself as a rather formidable creature, if a little boney. Bernard Lafourcade, the distinguished French translator and critic of Lewis's work, prefers the analogy of 'a population of Easter Island monoliths lying face down, half buried in the sand'. It is his intention that they should pick themselves up and live, but he is not aided in this hope by Lewis, who, in the original Wild Body of 1927 presented his readers with a set of seven comic vignettes, and then set out in an explanatory essay why his audience should be in stitches. In truth Lewis possessed everything required of a writer of comedy except a sense of humour. He believed humans to be funny because we are animated machines; it was the incongruity between the animus and the automoton which triggered the comic switch. Thus his characters, mostly Breton peasants or driftwood through seedy summer pensions, twist and jerk themselves into attitudes of extreme nervous excitement for our presumed delectation and in order to prove the undignified and 'absurd' laws we are ruled by. Then ...


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