Gerard Hoffnung’s Constant Readers

« Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read. » – Groucho Marx

Today, we salute the remarkably versatile and woefully short-lived Gerard Hoffnung (born in 1925, died in 1959 of a brain haemorrhage, aged 34): cartoonist, illustrator, educator, musician, raconteur… and voracious reader, ça va de soit.

While he’s perhaps most fondly recalled for his music and his music-related cartooning, I hold in special regard a slender volume of his gentle celebration of the act and art of reading, Hoffnung’s Constant Readers, from which I offer you the following samples.

HoffnungLongLimbedAHoffnungElephantA

HoffnungUnpluggedA
This piece evokes echoes of another cozy favourite, this one, by two-headed cartoonist Anton.

HoffnungBathttubA

HoffnungTVReaderA
Ah, the familiar struggle, this time with the unlikelier outcome… for a change.
HoffnungPeltA
The dread of every true bibliophile.
HoffnungPeekerA
Not a scene you’re likely to witness these days, nor should you!
HoffnungBakerA
I’m told that flour and yeast have lately been vanishing with dizzying speed from grocery shelves. It appears that home-confined bread lovers have, in tremendous numbers, taken up the noble art of making their own.

HoffnungDinerAHoffnungLorgnetteA

HoffnungFroggiesA
« Children are made readers on the laps of their parents. » – Emilie Buchwald
HoffnungReadersA
Front and back covers; like much of the man’s œuvre, Hoffnung’s Constant Readers (1962, Dennis Dobson, London) was published posthumously. For some dad-blamed reason, the book was at some point reissued under the rather disparaging title Hoffnung’s Bookworms. Bleh.
HoffnungPortraitA
The debonair (what else?) Mr. Hoffnung.

Born and raised in Berlin, teenage Gerard was sent to England in 1938 to flee the encroaching tide of Nazism. He was a lifelong (however brief the life) doodler, and most of his thousand-plus drawings (in a style bearing a touch of his noted compatriot Wilhelm Busch‘s influence) were carefully preserved. For such a short life and career, this irrepressible fellow left behind an outstanding discography and bibliography.

His devoted widow, Annetta Hoffnung, née Perceval (they wed in 1952), attended unflaggingly to his memory during the nearly sixty years that she outlived him by (she passed away in 2018); the website she created to celebrate and promote his work remains active, and there you’ll find a fuller biography. Thank you, madam.

-RG

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