Introduced by Paul Cox
Illustrated by Paul Cox
A cycling jaunt in Germany provides the backdrop for this laugh-out-loud novel from the master of Victorian quick wit; the escapades beautifully illustrated by Paul Cox.
‘Some of the vignettes [in Three Men on the Bummel] are the funniest Jerome ever wrote, with everything from animals, bicycles, hosepipes and German culture being milked for all their comic potential in his trademark genial style.’
Essentially a ‘jolly’ with no discernible itinerary or end date, ‘bummel’ is the perfect description of Jerome K. Jerome’s capers in late Victorian Europe. Switching water for wheels in the sequel to Three Men in a Boat, Jerome and his travel companions George and Harris embark on a cycling tour around Germany’s Black Forest region – having ruled out more strenuous sojourns, or those that might appeal to their families sufficiently for them to tag along.
The writing is vibrant and the observational humour still joyful. Indeed, Jerome’s innate talent for making light of human foibles laid the groundwork for much contemporary comedy. The wit is sharp, opinionated and often at the expense of the narrator’s companions or hosts, but it is always delivered with the best intentions. The journey itself is a pleasurable series of minor mishaps, cultural revelations and perceived eccentricities, all deftly related through a comic lens. Jerome is amused to learn that fancy dress isn’t allowed in German towns and neither is the breaking of glass or china. The sanctity of German grass also proves a popular point of discussion: ‘the very dogs respect German grass; no German dog would dream of putting a paw on it. If you see a dog scampering across the grass in Germany, you may know for certain that it is the dog of some unholy foreigner’. While amused at these civil regulations, he is shocked to the core by the violent duels that are commonplace among college students – a rite of passage with often life-changing repercussions.
Ultimately, it is the camaraderie of the travelling companions that makes Jerome’s lesser known, but equally accomplished, novel such a pleasure to read. The benefit of hindsight also adds poignancy; the party travel in blissful ignorance of the events that will plunge Europe into darkness in just a few years.
Illustrated by Paul Cox, using his original images for the 1998 Reader’s Digest edition, and over 20 stunning new full-colour illustrations for this edition, which is printed in series with the publishing phenomenon Three Men in a Boat. Cox also introduces the book, offering a fascinating and witty insight into his creative process. His designs extend to the blocked-cloth binding and quirky map endpapers.
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Review by scarr on 4th Jul 2018
""Bummel" gets far less attention than it's well-known older brother "Boat," but the wit is at the same high level, and benefits from a transfer to The Continent and a different mode of transportation...." [read more]