In an interview Searle explained: “I work with no fixed market in mind. Some ideas may be best expressed in lithography, others are large water-colours, others in pen. When they have been sufficiently developed I start worrying about placing them… The only factor I watch is: whatever I do is thought of as an international idea – that it will have equal appeal in any of half-a-dozen countries. Or be equally rejected.”
In addition to his cartoons about people, the second part of the 60s brought forth some animal new themes. Gathering scenes of people interpreted as cats, a new book was issued.
In 1967, De drôles de chats was published by Librairie Arthème Fayard in Paris, and by Dennis Dobson in London, titled: Searle's Cats. In the next year, this book was published by Stephen Greene in Brattleboro (USA), and in Germany by Kurt Desch in Munich, as: Die Katzen des Ronald Searle. Later on, Searle's Cats was republished several times: by J. J. Douglas in Vancouver in 1977, by Souvenir Press in London in 1987, by Droemer Knaur in Munich in 1988…
Another book was soon launched in several countries. Featuring people, cats, birds, pigs, snails, and few flies, Searle expressed one more time the dark side of the human behavior: aggressiveness, cruelty, blindness deformity, frustration…
L’œuf cube et le cercle vicieux was published by Librairie Arthème Fayard in Paris in 1968. In the same time, titled The Square Egg and the Vicious Circle, it was published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in London, and by Stephen Greene Press in Brattleboro, USA. In the next year, as Das eckige Ei, this book was published by Kurt Desch in Munich. Then after several pocket size editions were printed: published by DTV in Munich in 1973, by Penguin Books in London in 1980, and by Viking Press in New York in 1981.
The following book has a single theme. It contains 80 ideas on snail subjects. Some cartoons seem to be just like an image-association, when others are much elaborated.
The title of this French edition was suggested by the French artist Roland Topor: Tiens! Il n’y a personne? The book was published in 1969 by Jean-Jacques Pauvert in Paris, and by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in London, titled there: Hello. Where Did All the People go? In the next year, this book was published by S. Greene Press in the USA, and by Kurt Desch in Munich, as Nanu, wo sind die Menschen geblieben? In 1979 it was republished by Rowohlt in Hamburg, with a new title: Schneckereien.
At left: a set of odd associations. At right: a "snailish" parody of Fragonard’s famous painting: The Happy Accidents of the Swing – however, in 1980 Searle drew a new version of this scene, with pigs in place of snails, that is closer to Fragonard’s work.
In 1972, Searle dedicated a book to one of the smallest insects: a gnat; but a gnat having a human shape.
The Suicide & Reincarnation of an Extremely Small Man was published by Daily–Bul in La Louvière (Belgium). It is the 41st volume in the collection Les Poquettes Volantes; a not so voluminous “volume”, as this thin micro-book measures 11cm x 13.5 cm. This edition, which was never republished, was limited to 1,000 copies.
In twenty pages, Searle shows the story of this odd character that flies, falls and crashes to an apparently enormous eye, eye which reveals to be just the pattern of a butterfly’s wing. At the last page, this butterfly bumps into something, and maybe the story can restart from the beginning, again and again endlessly.
In 1975, Searle came back to his favorite animals with a book of twenty marvelous color plates of cats (but there were few birds and one pig too). This More Cats was first published by Dennis Dobson in London, and then in 1976, by Stephen Greene Press in Brattleboro (USA), by J.J. Douglas in Vancouver, and by Kurt Desch in Munich, as Mehr Katzen.
Some cartoons of this book have been already published in The New Yorker magazine.
One more time, Searle’s cats express human passions.
Hereunder, this couple of pigs looks like very human too.
This work was drawn in 1974, and it was edited in the back cover of the French magazine Le Fou Parle, issue number 9, in January 1979.
In 1980, Von Katzen und anderen Menschen [Cats and other people], an anthology of Searle’s former books, was published by Eulenspiegel in East Berlin. This book has 118 pages.
Only eight real or mythic animals are part of the signs of the zodiac. Searle changed Virgo into a mole (a private joke with Monica, his wife), added cats to Libra, dogs to Aquarius, birds to Gemini, so he finally got the full menagerie of 12 animalized signs. With two cartoons for each sign, the content of a new book was ready.
Searle’s Zoodiac was first published by Dobson in London in 1977. In the text year it was published by Pantheon Books in New York, and in Germany by Gerhard Stalling as Searles Tierkeis.
Some cartoons from this book were used for postcards published by Verlag L. Dabritz in Munich.
Increasing his private zoo, Searle drew 26 animal cartoons that were gathered in a new book: The King of Beast & other Creatures, that was first published by Allen Lane in London in 1980.
In the next year, it was published by La Boétie /Deux Coqs d’Or in Paris, as Le roi des animaux et autres creatures, and by Viking Press in New York, as The Situation is Hopeless.
A larger and bigger book was issued in several countries in 1982. Ronald Searle’s Big Fat Cat Book was an anthology containing many new cat cartoons and some others from three former books: The Square Egg, More Cats, and Zoodiac. Four cartoons of this book originally appeared in The New Yorker magazine and some others were edited as lithography (like "The coming of the Great Cat God" hereunder at right)
The English edition of this book was published by Macmillan in London, and by Little Brown & Co in Boston. As Chats Chats Chats, it was published by La Boétie /Deux Coqs d’Or in Paris, and as Ronald Searles Großes Katzenbuch, it was published by Gerstenberg Verlag in Germany.
Some of Searle’s cartoons only appeared in press and were never republished in a book form.
Ronald Searle has also illustrated some books for young readers. Such are The Tales of Grandpa Cat, written by Lee Wardlaw, and published by Dial Books in New York in 1994. Obviously, in this children's story, the felines personify less human faults and vices, but rather human qualities.
Here, Grandpa Cat humorously entertains his grandchildren with exciting tales about the exploits of various fellow residents of his retirement community: Billy the Kitten (the fastest paw in the West), Diamond Jim Kitty (millionaire thanks to his mitten factory), the Great Tabby Houdini (the great magician), and Miss Kitty Hawk (the cat who was determined to fly).
In the book Beastly Feasts! - sub-titled: A Mischievous Menagerie in Rhyme - some of Searle’s illustrations of Robert L. Forbes’ funny poems, are also real cartoons. In all, 42 various animals are there. This book was first published by The Overlook Press in New York in 2007.
One year later, it was cleverly translated into French and, as Bestioles un peu folles [Beasts a bit crazy], it was published by Jean-Claude Gawsewitch in Paris.
Our next article about Searle’s books will be dedicated to some sweet dope (well… to legal poisons anyway).
article by JMB
related articles by JMB - previous parts