front cover of The Case Worker
My painting, Egon Schiele III, has just been published on the cover of Hungarian writer Konrád György's novel, The Case Worker.
Korean publishing firm, Sigongsa, chose a painting from my Egon Schiele series for the book cover of their Korean translation of The Case Worker. I am doubly delighted.
Firstly, because i find the idea of my painting appearing on book stands around South Korea most satisfying. Somehow it appeals even more than being in an exhibition, maybe because my work enters into the lives of people where they live and work rather than being set apart in a special building. I guess that's also why i was so comfortable exhibiting and selling through The Edge Cafe .
Secondly, because my work appears on the cover of a creative work of fiction, The Case Worker, by a renowned writer - Konrád György (aka George Konrad in the English-speaking publishing world).
I am proud that my work should be in any way associated with a thinker, novelist and essayist who has been such an advocate of individual freedom in both word and deed.
Konrad took part in the Hungarian uprising against the Soviet occupation, his writing was banned in the 1970's and 80's because of his out-spoken defence of human dignity and freedom, and he has been imprisoned for raising his voice in defence of human worth.
The Case Worker sets the mood in its opening paragraph:
Go on, I say to my client. Out of habit, because I can guess what he’s going to say, and doubt his truthfulness. He complains some more, justifies himself, puts the blame on others. From time to time he bursts into tears. Half of what he says is beside the point; he reels off platitudes, he unburdens himself. He thinks his situation is desperate; seems perfectly normal to me. He swears his cross is too heavy; seems quite bearable to me. He hints at suicide; I let it pass. He thinks I can save him; I can’t tell him how wrong he is.
At one point the case worker reflects on his role working with damaged and damaging human beings:
"I must huddle and render judgement. Don't throw the newborn into the garbage pail. Don't let your infant starve. If baby is ill, call a doctor. It is not advisable to tie a baby to his crib, sit him down on a hot stove, shut him up in the ice box, put his finger in an electric socket, or beat him with a trouser belt, rolling pin, chair leg, carpet beater, wooden spoon, broom stick, clothes line or shoe heel. Refrain from raping teenage girls, particularly your own. While making love do not crush your sleeping child against the wall. Do not feed him brandy, don't pawn his winter coat, don't give your girl friend his supper, don't let him be devoured by lice, don't call his mother a whore or his father a bastard, don't threaten him with your service pistol, don't send him out begging, don't sell him to elderly queers, don't urinate in his school bag, don't leave him behind on the train, don't cheat him, don't laugh at him, don't shout him down, don't bellow at him, don't shame him; in a word, as far as possible respect the innocence of his beginnings."
I love that, like myself, Konrad has a background in psychology and sociology. I love that Konrad's writing (he has been called the "true heir of Kafka") is seen as an anti-sentimental exploration of the human condition, as a striving after honesty, as mapping human limitations and frailty yet remaining unbowed and undefeated in the face of those. I love his sober celebration of what it is to be human in an imperfect world.
I can identify with that. It is what i have been striving for in my portrait painting.
One reviewer summaries the thrust of the novel with "We don’t get anywhere in the plot because there is nowhere to go. Here we are, we’re getting nowhere, but we keep going."
Another reviewer concludes that The Case Worker, "is a bleak and grim book. I know there are lots of readers who quite understandably prefer not to read books like this. But if you can handle it, the writing is stellar, and the questions raised are profound."
And i would like to think that this may be true of my portraits. They are not what one would buy to decorate a wall. I don't even offer them for sale (though i have requests to buy through Saatchi Online that i have ignored to date).
Perhaps Konrad's unflinching exploration of the human condition is what Sigongsa saw in my work. Perhaps it is the reason they chose my uncompromising depiction of Egon Schiele in this painting - Egon the damaged, yet Egon the beautiful. I hope so.
What i do know is that Minji Kim of Sigongsa has been a real delight to work with. Friendly, efficient, hard working, she had the whole thing done and dusted in a couple of days!
And i love what she has done with the painting on the back cover as well. And the cute little logo from the painting on the spine. My complimentary copies have just arrived in the mail fresh from the printer (and the royalty payment won't go amiss either).
back cover of The Case Worker
Thank you Sigongsa, thank you Minji Kim, and especially thank you Konrád György.
Anyone wishing to buy a copy of this Korean translation can do from this bookshop,
헝가리 현대문학계의 살아 있는 거장 콘라드 죄르지의 대표작
콘라드, 이 책 한 권으로 유럽 문학의 중심에 서다
콘라드 죄르지는 2002년 노벨문학상 수상자 임레 케르테스와 더불어, 헝가리 현대문학계의 양대 산맥을 이루는 거장이다. 헝가리 문학을 논할 때 가장 먼저 언급되는 그는, 팔순을 바라보는 현재까지 유럽 현대문학계의 ‘명예 대사’이자 ‘살아 있는 전설’로서, 끊임없는 집필 활동은 물론 왕성한 대외적 활동을 이어가고 있다.
or read more about the book at this Korean blog.