The Encyclopaedia of Stupidity by Matthijs van Boxsel, Arnold and Erica Pomerans (trans.) - review by David Profumo

David Profumo

From Pinocchio to ‘Pataphysics

The Encyclopaedia of Stupidity


Reaktion Books 206pp £19.95 order from our bookshop

AS ITS CURIOUS author is keenly aware, this book is neither encyclopaedic nor entirely devoted to stupidity: it belongs to a tradition of learned wit that began in classical times, resurfaced with the Encomium Moriae of Erasmus, and proceeded - through the Scriblerians - to feed the finest epoch of sarcasm in the English language. This satirical exploration of the lineaments of human folly is a fascinating and slightly deranged work that would have had Pope and Swift sucking happily from their punch bowls.

The result of more than a decade of eclectic research, The Encyclopadia of Stupidity is neither comprehensive nor methodical: it takes the form of a series of interdependent essays that is partly anthological in nature. Our author - a Dutchman - begins by admitting that hs project might have qualified as its own first entry, and once we're on that kind of wavelength we can follow him along the tortuous path of his latter-day Dunciad. He begins with an allegorical journey to the Academy of Stupidity (how Bron, our late, sainted Editor would have adored this concept!), which celebrates legendary townships (Gotham, Schilda), has a bestiarium stupidum (geese, pigs), a fine library (Uber die Dummheit, plus a compendious

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