Introduced by John Sutherland
Illustrated by David Hughes
Illustrator David Hughes captures the anarchic energy of Kesey’s iconic novel.
‘If you haven’t already read this book, do so. If you have, read it again’The Oscar-winning film adaptation of 1975 sealed this story’s legacy, but with characteristic disdain for the Hollywood machine, Kesey claimed never to have seen it. In his brilliant introduction to this edition, John Sutherland shows how Ken Kesey, like his fellow traveller Jack Kerouac, ‘picked up what was in the air’ of 1960s America, and made it into art. David Hughes, a great fan of the work, has created illustrations that echo Kesey’s anarchic energy. The lettering on the grey cloth binding was handwritten by the artist; bright yellow endpapers and head- and tailbands provide the finishing touches.
‘A roar of protest against middlebrow society’s Rules and the Rulers who enforce them’
‘You never can tell when just that certain one might come in who’s free enough to foul things up right and left, really make a hell of a mess and constitute a threat to the whole smoothness of the outfit.’ Chief Bromden is a downtrodden inmate in a mental institution run by the doll-faced Nurse Ratched and her team of aides. Then a new Admission appears: Randle Patrick McMurphy, transferred from a prison ward. A ‘hassler’ and a dangerous free thinker, McMurphy soon challenges the status quo, and a fight for supremacy begins.
Ken Kesey had himself experienced the dark side of America’s psychiatric institutions. While working as a night aide in a mental hospital, he witnessed controversial treatments such as electroshock therapy and lobotomy. He also took LSD as part of a trial run by the CIA, and described the experience as an ‘eye-opener’, saying that he could truly ‘see into people’ for the first time. Kesey wrote parts of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest while under the influence of mescaline, which partly accounts for its wild narrative panache. Above all it is a harrowing, and challenging, examination of all our notions of freedom, sanity, and social control.
Ken Kesey was born in La Junta, Colorado, in 1935. Brought up in Springfield, Oregon, he graduated from the University of Oregon and later studied writing at Stanford with Wallace Stegner, Malcolm Cowley, Richard Scowcroft and Frank O’Connor. Kesey’s first novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, was published in 1962 and was later adapted into a film of the same name, starring Jack Nicholson. His second novel, Sometimes a Great Notion, followed in 1964. His other books include Kesey’s Garage Sale (1973), Demon Box (1986), The Further Inquiry (1990), Sailor Song (1992) and Last Go Round (1994, with Ken Babbs). His two children’s books are Little Tricker the Squirrel Meets Big Double the Bear (1990) and The Sea Lion (1991). He died in 2001.
John Sutherland is Emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College, London, and has taught in universities worldwide. Author of over 20 books, his interest lies in the areas of Victorian fiction, the history of publishing and 20th-century fiction. His latest books are: Love, Sex, Death and Words: Tales from a Year in Literature (2010), written with Stephen Fender; Lives of the Novelists: A History of Fiction in 465 Lives (2011); and A Little History of Literature (2013). He was chairman of the 2005 Man Booker Prize for Fiction and regularly writes for the Guardian. For The Folio Society he has introduced Brighton Rock (1997), Slaughterhouse-Five (2006), Lucky Jim (2011) and The Castle (2011).
David Hughes is an artist and illustrator. He studied at Twickenham College of Technology, earning a first class honours in illustration, and went on to work as a graphic designer at Granada Television in Manchester. He left Granada in 1985 to become a full-time illustrator, earning commissions from Walker Books, the Observer Magazine and The New Yorker, among others. In 1999 he won the D&AD Silver Award for his illustrations for Othello, and in 2010 Walking the Dog, his graphic novel about the daily life of an illustrator, won the Association of Illustrators Critic’s Award. For The Folio Society he has illustrated Count Belisarius (2010), A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (2012) and Juvenal’s The Sixteen Satires (2014).
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