Article written for the escape of 'The Stories of George the Hamster'
Have you ever wondered just what it is that makes an author a literary giant, someone who, in broad terms, society at large regards as being particularly adept at sentence construction and imagery?
Is it their choice of words, the way they view the world around them? Do they touch at the nerve of society or echo emotions that are resident in the populace's heart?
There are many 'greats' that you can find represented in the nation's bookshops. Perhaps the greatest of them all is Shakespeare - whether he really is as great as the masses make out is neither here nor there, but that he is regarded as a literary master is what counts here (he's certainly unintelligible to a great many modern men and women but that, so I'm told, is what gives him his charm).
Others who have attained that level of genius probably spring to mind easily but I mention only a few to get you to start thinking - Thomas Hardy, Oscar Wilde, Bernard Shaw, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, HG Wells and Robert Louis Stevenson.
And, amongst the poets, we couldn't fail to mention authors such as Shelley, Byron and Keats. Perhaps even the great World War One war poet Wilfred Owen or the mystic, William Blake.
But what is it that makes these authors great? Why are they held in such high regard by their fellow man and woman?
I venture to suggest that what they all share - and, ultimately, what causes them to be considered amongst the greatest literary geniuses who have ever walked the earth - is that they are all dead.
As a dodo, in fact (indeed, you would probably have never heard of the dodo if there were still some of them alive).
I mean, you won't find the Cambridge Theatre ever putting on Bernard Shaw's 'New Theatrical Masterpiece', nor will you be able to rush out into the bookshops to buy Shelley's 'New Collection of non-sensical poems to all manner of naff subjects' (besides, he's already done too many of them in his lifetime for people to really want any more).
They're great because they're dead - indeed, we often fail to appreciate the greatness of any author until they're no longer with us, as if familiarity breeds our contempt of them.
It's only in hindsight that we realise that they were 'ahead of their time', unique amongst their peers and unworthy of the suffering that they went through for the sake of their work. For, while we may make them suffer while alive for what they produced, we make a subsequent generation suffer for their work by pronouncing it as 'divine'.
And so we come to another figure from history who's destined to take his stand amongst the literary giants of the world, someone who, until recently, hadn't a collection of his compositions able to be purchased in bookshops.
That figure is none other than George the Hamster - although sadly no longer with us, it's his very lack of life that must now elevate him to the position of literary supremacy.
In this new book release, then, read about the Pilgrim Hamsters who founded a new colony of hamsters in America, be amazed at the first Hamster Olympics and the sporting triumphs that paled the human equivalent into insignificance.
And what of the specific characters such as Furatio Half-Nelson, the most intrepid of all sea-faring hamsters, the astronomer Gerbileo, the Wild West hero The Lone Hamster and, that most successful of all rodent detectives, Furlock Holmes?
The book is chock-full of classic after classic, handed down from generations of hamsters who have recounted these stories round the food bowls of pet shops for centuries, sometimes even millennia.
I should point out that being editors and translators hasn't been easy for either myself or my wife. Some stories didn't, unfortunately, make the cut due to the restrictions imposed on us by the size of the book. Among them, the well regarded 'St Ethel Grump and the Tea Caddy' (which we may release in a newspaper should one wish to serialise the book).
And, then, there were some that George himself destroyed long before they could ever see the light of day because he was unhappy with them. Although Kafka had his own special friend who rescued some of his works, George had shredded the compositions before we ever knew they existed.
Amongst them, I should mention one that has grown into almost legendary proportions and that many have asserted that they own a copy of when it's known that none exist - 'The Fatal Fried Rice of Fat Foo Yung's Fish Noodles'.
Let the reader please note, therefore, that should you ever see a book release purporting to contain the text of this work, it's bogus.
Still others (some written by George and others written by his successors), we've held back for a second book because we sincerely believe that the world is not yet ready for such revelations from a hamster's mind.
These are stories such as 'The Budgie of the Baskervilles' (stolen from hamster history by a very famous - and equally dead - author), 'The Boston Cheese Party', 'Lord of the Onion Rings' (again, it appeared in human form with a suspiciously similar title), the epic saga of the first Field Mouse ever to conquer Everest, entitled 'Touching the Cheeseboard' and, the controversial, 'Futtock' which, I understand from the Home Office, Albania has already banned.
If this latter story ever does get released in a second book, we have been reliably informed that the country may withdraw its Ambassador from London in protest.
George's legendary writings have grown both in perceived stature and high regard with each year that has passed since his death in 1993 until this day when we have felt compelled - nay, we have felt under obligation - to gather a collection of his works together into a single volume and release it under the title 'The Stories of George the Hamster'.
So, now, we can announce the book's escape into the world - and we would commend it to you as probably the greatest work of literature that has ever come from the paw of a Golden Hamster.Lee H Smith
The translators can be contacted here