At the Blue Monkey: 33 Outlandish Stories

Walter Serner (Author) Erik Butler (Translator)


Walter Serner's first story collection, published in German in 1921, brought to narrative form the philosophy of his earlier Dada manifesto/handbook, Last Loosening: A Handbook for the Con Artist & Those Who Wish to Be One--life is a con job and demands the skills of a swindler. With its depiction of a world of appearances in which nothing can be trusted, At the Blue Monkey helped establish the ex-doctor and renounced Dadaist as a literary "Maupaussant of crime" and offers in this first English translation 33 stories of criminals, con artists and prostitutes engaged in varieties of financial insolvency, embezzlement, sexual hijinks, long and short cons, and dalliances with venereal diseases and drugs.

Told in a baroque, sometimes baffling poetry of underworld slang in an urban world of bars and rent-a-rooms, these short tales are presented to the reader like so many three-card Montes in which readers come to realize too late that they may well themselves be the literary mark.

Walter Serner (1889-1942) helped found the Dada movement and embodied its most cynical and anarchic aspects. After breaking with the movement, he began publishing crime stories and the 1925 novel The Tigress. Moving constantly across Europe, he eventually disappeared and was rumored to have vanished into the criminal milieu he wrote about; in fact he had returned to Czechoslovakia, married and become a schoolteacher. In 1942, he and his wife presumably died after being moved from a concentration camp, his books banned and burned by the Nazis.--Pat Padua "Spectrum Culture"

Product Details

$15.95  $14.67
Wakefield Press
Publish Date
February 18, 2020
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About the Author

Walter Serner was born in 1889 to a Jewish family in Carlsbad, Bohemia and studied law in Vienna. When World War I started, he escaped to Switzerland in 1914 and participated in Dada activities in Zürich, Geneva, and Paris, editing and writing for numerous magazines and composing his infamous "Dada Manifesto" in 1918. His books were banned and burned by Nazi Germany. He ultimately settled in Prague in the 1930s with his longtime partner, Dorothea Herz. They unsuccessfully tried to escape to Shanghai when Nazi Germany occupied the country and were deported "East" in 1942, perishing near Riga.


At the Blue Monkey offers pieces of a life that don't fit together, its mystery never solved. There's no closure to speak of, but if it raises any questions about the nature of fiction and life, its job is done.--Pat Padua "Spectrum Culture "