In 1594 Elizabethan satirist Thomas Nashe published ‘The Unfortunate Traveller’. This picaresque novel, the first of its kind in Britain, was set on the continent and followed its protagonist’s adventures through a string of European towns. In graphic descriptions Jack Wilton, a court page, testified to the “wonderful spectacle of bloodshed” that 16th-century Europe had become and doing so allowed Thomas Nashe to expose the religious and political hypocrisy of his days. William Levy, who has been familiar with the works of Nashe since the 1960s, has now coined a collection of his erotic stories ‘The Fortunate Traveller’. In that way Levy’s tales, published on various occasions over the years and now compiled by Moloko Plus, form a loose but in content and style coherent series of picaresque adventures with the author himself as a horny protagonist. While picaresque novels traditionally use frog’s perspectives, low viewpoints from the fringe, to present readers with distorted and hilarious images of the higher layers of society, Levy’s perspective is rather outside-in. Levy offers the reader glimpses of bedrooms that he shared with attractive women in Amsterdam, Paris, Prague, Ohio, Baltimore and Vilnius, at the same time satirizing the incrowd, the “haute riff-rafferie of the demimonde“, among whom several figures of the counterculture. “History without gossip is a dry biscuit”, Levy once explained. And that is very true: his latest erotic picaresque novel is not only to a large extent autobiographical but sheer voyeur’s and eavesdropper’s delight to boot.
Writer, poet and gentleman-provocateur William Levy (1939-2019) was a thorn in the side of the establishment since the early 1960s. Levy grew up in Baltimore and settled in London in 1966; by then he had won a reputation in the literary avant-garde as founder of the ‘Insect Trust Gazette’, an American poetry journal that published cut-up pieces by William Burroughs and experimental pieces by Antonin Artaud, Max Ernst, Hans Arp and others. In 1970 Levy moved to Amsterdam – his activities as chief-editor of the underground newspaper International Times and as co-founder of the first European sex paper Suck vexed the British authorities. Levy’s activities have included author of ‘The Virgin Sperm Dancer’ and ‘Natural Jewboy’, editor of ‘Certain Radio Speeches of Ezra Pound’ as well as a number of publications about Otto Mühl, works for radio, the organisation for the transgressive Wet Dream festivals and publishing poetry and prose for various presses large and small. Moloko Plus published his short story RAPE in 2017.
Michael Blümel (1967) was trained as an artist and illustrator at the art schools of Mannheim and Freiburg and currently divides his time between Bad Mergentheim in Germany and the south of France. At Ralf Friel’s invitation Blümel has illustrated ‘The Fortunate Traveller’. His loose and brilliant watercolour and ink drawings are the icing on this already seductive cake.