ABSTRACT

In ‘Inferior Religions’, in The Wild Body (1927), Wyndham Lewis presents himself as the showman of a puppet theatre in which the tradition of satire is reincarnated in new ‘monuments of dead imperfection […]. Satire is the great Heaven of Ideas, where you meet the titans of red laughter; it is just below intuition, and life charged with black illusion’ (CWB 150). The bitterness of Lewis’s attack on individuals rests on his relentless hatred of their capacity to belong to a social typology, because of their failure to exploit the energy inherent in their own distinctiveness. He argues:

Whereas The Wild Body is essentially an anthropology of this principle, an investigation of ‘primitive’ types, the principle itself is given free rein in The Apes of God (1930), which doesn’t really have any more of a narrative unity than the earlier collection. The only narrative is episodic, featuring a series of fictional portraits, in which targets of Lewis’s scorn or hatred are carefully staged, so as to foreground their basic crime: namely, their lack of authenticity, their lack of reality. Many of the characters, like the ones anatomized by Horace Zagreus ‘chez Lionel Kein Esq.’, are looking for an author. It is an unsuccessful quest, because all they find is each other. They ‘have all been written about in their own or their friend’s books’, and therefore are dependent on such an inferior reality that they are merely ‘fictional mongrel facts’ (AG 293).