The Legs of Izolda Morgan

I’ve been working on another freelance book cover project for Twisted Spoon Press, this one another collection of writings by Bruno Jasienski. Jasienski was a leader of the Polish Futurism movement who was deported from France on the basis of his ‘catastophist’ novel I Burn Paris (which I also did a cover for, due out in the fall via Twisted Spoon), and wound up eventually perishing in the gulag of the U.S.S.R. after initially receiving a hero’s welcome there on his arrival.

The most celebrated story in this collection is ‘The Legs of Izolda Morgan’, a delirious tale about a worker who steals his girlfriend’s legs after she’s run over by a tram and sliced in two in the opening lines of the story. The worker basically flips out and decides that machines are out to get us, and strikes back by attempting to sabotage the factory he works in. As a characterization of someone whose sanity seems to have been tainted by contact with the machine age, ‘The Legs of Izolda Morgan’ isn’t exactly as sympathetic as you might expect to technology and modernity as you might expect coming from an avowed Futurist. The story is accompanied (and further obfuscated) by a weird little preface, Exposé, that contains lots of odd provocations and baffling statements, such as this passage that I’m thinking about using on the back cover:

I do not claim that the present book should stand as an example of how the contemporary novel ought to be written. But it is most certainly an example of how the novel cannot be written these days (the joke that you wish to make here, dear reader, only confirms your naivité).

Sometimes, Jasienski doesn’t seem so much a committed ideologue as just somebody who likes stirring up controversy and rattling chains, which I suppose puts him in good company with many other practitioners of Futurism, a movement that was basically founded by a brilliant and subversive clown.

Another story in the collection is called ‘The Nose’, which presents a tempting cover design opportunity in that the cover could be divided in two between nose and legs. However, as ‘Legs’ is the most celebrated story, I’ve inevitably come back around to letting this one be the star of the show. The publisher and I discussed using an all typographic cover, which sort of led me in the direction shown here that I’m currently leaning toward:

The idea would be to print this on a rough recycled paper, to get the same feeling as those great Bukowski publications from Black Sparrow Press. Still very much kicking this one around, though — a few things about it don’t entirely sit well with me. Mainly, it doesn’t  look ‘of its time period’ (e.g. 1930s), which is something I’ve made a conscious effort to achieve with my other Twisted Spoon covers. But maybe that’s a welcome change… ?

4 thoughts on “The Legs of Izolda Morgan”

  1. The ink spot in the bottom may be slightly out of period, but fuck it; it’s an awesome cover.

  2. Your cover idea is interesting but does it do justice to, and is it faithful to the concept of the story? Maybe that’s not your objective (and it is very likely that Jasienski would have approved), but it seems a bit contrived.

    What is your view on how to reconcile Jasienski’s artistic philosophy with his behaviour in Russia? Wasn’t he a fairly rabid Stalinist?

  3. Yeah, the trick is to produce cover art that feels faithful to the spirit of the writing and the time period that produced it, but doesn’t lapse into dull historical revivalism either. As the other Jasienski cover I did very much feels of a piece with 1930s Futurism, I’m not necessarily intent on going down that road again. But, it’s true that this cover departs pretty widely from that esthetic (and if it feels ‘contrived’, that’s certainly worrisome!)

    Regarding the second point: my understanding is that Jasienski toed the party line, but he was friends with that Yagoda guy, and once Yagoda fell, Jasienski was next. By the late 30s, simply wearing glasses was enough to get you in the gulag, so being a Polish national probably made it inevitable.

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