A TASK FOR DIOGENES. Appleton, Wisconsin: C. C. Nelson Publishing Co., 1947. Octavo, cloth. First edition. A short vanity-published fantasy. Two Latin American diplomats after World War II wander about New York City in a fog of mild ennui, complaining that their mission is "a task fit for Hercules," when they encounter an oddly dressed chess player in a park who turns out to be Diogenes, the Greek philosopher, made immortal by Zeus (the inventor of chess). He invites the diplomats to the apartment he shares with Hercules, who now works as a piano mover, and who also is obsessed with chess. The four set off on a world diplomatic tour, making headlines and increasing the popularity of chess but getting nowhere in their primary mission of diplomacy, before returning home, content to resume their old lives. The satire is occasionally sharp and the insights sensible; the author maintains a tone of genial, low-key absurdity that makes the book likable as long as one keeps expectations low. If it never really becomes impressive neither does it ever really become contemptible, and it is definitely amusing in spots. Diogenes founded the school of Cynicism. Rhadamanthus was a mythological figure, offspring of Zeus and Europa, and famous as a just judge. Neilson was an unusual figure, an Englishman who came to this country at the beginning of World War I, disillusioned by what he saw as the machinations of diplomats. He worked in a wide variety of careers and wrote about 20 books indicative of the same breadth of interest. In reviewing his autobiography, the NEW YORK TIMES called him a "… an incorrigible but surprisingly urbane nonconformist." A scarce book, as is another fantasy of his, THE DEVIL AND ALL. Not in Bleiler (1948; 1978), Day (1963) or Reginald (1979; 1992). Cloth a bit soiled, upper right corners of cover and text block bumped, else a very good copy. (#112791).

Price: $25.00

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