Jack Zipes - "Oddly Modern Fairy Tales"

Tuesday, November 13, 2018 - 6:00pm - 7:00pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
Jack Zipes

“Édouard Laboulaye’s witty stories have been overlooked by anthologizers and translators alike since the late nineteenth century. "Smack-Bam, or The Art of Governing Men" presents new translations of his fairy tales in a modern edition. Bringing to the English-speaking world a writer famous in his day who slipped through the cracks of history, this collection fills a gap and is well worth our attention.”—Christine A. Jones, editor of Mother Goose Reconfigured: A Critical Translation of Charles Perrault’s Fairy Tales

Jack Zipes discusses two new releases in the Oddly Modern Fairy Tales series, Michael Rosen’s Workers’s Tales: Socialist Fairy Tales, Fables, and Allegories from Great Britain and Édouard Laboulaye’s Smack-Bam, or The Art of Governing Men: Political Fairy Tales of Édouard Laboulaye. A Q&A and signing will follow the discussion.

At 57th Street Books

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About Workers' Tales: In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, unique tales inspired by traditional literary forms appeared frequently in socialist-leaning British periodicals, such as the Clarion, Labour Leader, and Social Democrat. Based on familiar genres—the fairy tale, fable, allegory, parable, and moral tale—and penned by a range of lesser-known and celebrated authors, including Schalom Asch, Charles Allen Clarke, Frederick James Gould, and William Morris, these stories were meant to entertain readers of all ages—and some challenged the conventional values promoted in children’s literature for the middle class. In Workers’ Tales, acclaimed critic and author Michael Rosen brings together more than forty of the best and most enduring examples of these stories in one beautiful volume.

Throughout, the tales in this collection exemplify themes and ideas related to work and the class system, sometimes in wish-fulfilling ways. In Tom Hickathrift, a little, poor person gets the better of a gigantic, wealthy one. In The Man Without a Heart, a man learns about the value of basic labor after testing out more privileged lives. And in The Political Economist and the Flowers, two contrasting gardeners highlight the cold heart of Darwinian competition. Rosen’s informative introduction describes how such tales advocated for contemporary progressive causes and countered the dominant celebration of Britain’s imperial values. The book includes archival illustrations, biographical notes about the writers, and details about the periodicals where the tales first appeared.

Provocative and enlightening, Workers’ Tales presents voices of resistance that are more relevant than ever before.

About Smack-Bam, or The Art of Governing Men: Édouard Laboulaye (1811–1883), one of nineteenth-century France’s most prominent politicians and an instrumental figure in establishing the Statue of Liberty, was also a prolific writer of fairy tales. Smack-Bam, or The Art of Governing Men brings together sixteen of Laboulaye’s most artful stories in new translations. Filled with biting social commentary and strong notions of social justice, these rediscovered tales continue to impart lessons today. 

Inspired by folktales from such places as Estonia, Germany, Iceland, and Italy, Laboulaye’s deceptively entertaining stories explore the relationships between society and the ruling class. In Briam the Fool, the hero refuses the queen’s hand after he kills the king. In Zerbino the Bumpkin, the king and prime minister are idiots, while the king’s daughter runs away with a woodcutter to an enchanted island. And in the title story, Smack-Bam, or The Art of Governing Men, a superficial prince is schooled by a middle-class woman who smacks him when he won’t engage in his lessons and follows him across Europe until he falls in love with her. In these worlds, shallow aristocrats come to value liberty, women are as assertive and intelligent as men, and protagonists experience compassion as they learn of human suffering. 

With an introduction by leading fairy-tale scholar Jack Zipes that places Laboulaye’s writing in historical context, Smack-Bam, or The Art of Governing Men presents spirited tales from the past that speak to contemporary life.

About Jack Zipes: Jack Zipes is the editor of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (both Princeton), as well as The Great Fairy Tale Tradition (Norton). He is professor emeritus of German and comparative literature at the University of Minnesota.

Event Location: 
57th Street Books
1301 E. 57th Street
Chicago, IL 60637