Bringing Back Bonfiglioli
Kyril Bonfiglioli always seems to fall out of favor, come back, fall out of favor in a repetitive cycle. At the Guardian Books Blog, Alex Larman does his best to cement the author and his witty Charlie Mortdecai novels back in the public eye:
The trilogy’s central character, the Honorable Charlie Mortdecai,
has a little in common with Bon; he is a middle-aged art dealer,
somewhat stouter than the norm, and rhapsodises over lavish
descriptions of food, wine and general voluptuousness. However, while
Bon’s life was constantly dogged by penury and the taxman, Mortdecai
has more pressing concerns, such as why various people want to kill or
maim him. His only help is his kept thug, Jock Strapp, who he describes
as “a sort of anti-Jeeves”.
Bonfiglioli’s wit and erudition are a match for anything found in
Wodehouse, but in an altogether grimmer mode. Mortdecai often finds
himself under interrogation, frequently with violence, by sinister
employees of various foreign powers, for offences that he appears to
have no knowledge of. Neither, it might be noted, does the reader; the
overall feeling is one of a kind of pleasant but often unsettling
confusion, where nothing is as it seems, except for the certainty that
a well-dressed, well-spoken and occasionally accidentally murderous
Englishman will be irresistible to beautiful, insanely wealthy
nymphomaniacs. The tone might be called Kafkaesque,
but it’s hard to imagine Kafka writing a sentence such as “Suddenly I
felt shatteringly tired – I always do after torture”.
characters might become “tight” or “squiffy”, Mortdecai copes with
these un-Wodehousian pressures by becoming incapable with drink,
specifically single malt whisky.The only hint of moral condemnation
comes when a disapproving minor character says that “The fact that you
are quite evidently as drunk as a fiddler’s bitch in no way excuses a
man of your age looking and behaving like a fugitive from a home for
alcoholic music-hall artistes”. Mortdecai, stung to the quick, only
adds “a nasty one, that”.
It’s always good to have another reminder to check out Bonfiglioli’s work, so do.