Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781590173251
Pages: 160
Publication Date: July 20, 2010

The Jokers

by Albert Cossery, introduction by James Buchan, translated from the French by Anna Moschovakis

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Who are the jokers?

The jokers are the government, and the biggest joker of all is the governor, a bug-eyed, strutting, rapacious character of unequaled incompetence who presides over the nameless Middle Eastern city where this effervescent comedy by Albert Cossery is set.

The jokers are also the revolutionaries, no less bumbling and no less infatuated with the trappings of power than the government they oppose.

And the jokers are Karim, Omar, Heykal, Urfy, and their friends, free spirits who see the other jokers for the jokers they are and have cooked up a sophisticated and, most important, foolproof plan to enliven public life with a dash of subversive humor.

The joke is on them Albert Cossery, introduction by James Buchan, translated from the French by Anna Moschovakis


Cossery's account of finding the space to protest and retain your sense of humor is equal parts funny and vicious.
— Jessa Crispin, Need to Know on PBS

Albert Cossery, who died in 2008 at age 94, ought to be a household name. He's that good: an elegant stylist, an unrelenting ironist, his great subject the futility of ambition 'in a world where everything is false.' ... The Jokers is a small masterpiece...
—David Ulin, The Los Angeles Times

Cossery's use of irony is one of the most powerful and pity-inducing to be found in any literature East or West, old or new. It is an irony so fierce, an anger so sharply muted by inversion of sarcasm and disgust that it makes the reader's hair stand on end with guilty compassion.
—John Murray

Cossery argues the futility of locking horns with your oppressor…Far more effective—and far more natural—to undermine it by mockery and ridicule, as happens in this book to hilarious effect.
The Independent

Which French novelist, in Henry Miller's opinion, surpassed even Gorki and Dostoyevsky in depicting the despair, debasement and resignation of the poorest in habitants of the sprawling 20th-century cities? The answer is Albert Cossery…his style admirably clear and concise.
France Magazine

His caustic satire burned like the desert sun, undermining all forms of authority.
The Guardian

A jewel of eccentric humour
Le Monde