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Apes of God, The

roman-à-clef, Walpurgisnacht, in absentia, The Art of Being Ruled

a novel by Wyndham Lewis, published in 1930. The novel, a satirical roman-à-clef, established Lewis's reputation as the scourge of literary London and ‘Enemy’ of such circles as the Bloomsbury Group and the Sitwell coterie, whom he regarded as dilettantes and poseurs. Descriptions of Osbert and Edith Sitwell (Lord Osmund and Lady Harriet Finnian Shaw), Stephen Spender (Dan Boleyn), and such literary luminaries as V. Woolf, T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Vanessa and Clive Bell, Lytton Strachey, Roy Campbell, and Edwin Muir, are portrayed with the savage humour and the eye for graphic detail with which Lewis has become identified. The work, which demonstrates Lewis's theory of the ‘external’ nature of satire at its most extreme, consists of a series of loosely connected set pieces; the plot, such as it is, follows the meanderings of the imbecilic and beautiful young poet, Dan Boleyn, from one encounter with fashionable literary London to the next, culminating in the satirical Walpurgisnacht of the final chapter, ‘Lord Osmund's Lenten Party’. Dan's mentor, the sinister Horace Zagreus (whose liking for practical jokes owes something to Virginia Woolf's eccentric friend, Horace de Vere Cole), guides him from Bloomsbury tea-party to lesbian artist's studio to literary luncheon. Lewis himself appears only in absentia, as the much reviled writer, Pierpoint—named after the celebrated executioner—whose Nietzschean ideas on the role of the artist in society echo those expounded in Lewis's polemical work, The Art of Being Ruled. Despite the work's virtuosity and inventiveness, many readers have found the static, discursive nature of the narrative unrewarding.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Agha Shahid Ali Biography to Ardoch Perth and Kinross