“He has an evening suit, but never an occasion to wear it, so he puts it on when he paints his pictures.”
Insel, the only novel by the surrealist master Mina Loy, is a book like no other—about an impossible friendship amid the glamorous artistic bohemia of 1930s Paris.
German painter Insel is a perpetual sponger and outsider—prone to writing elegant notes with messages like “Am starving to death except for a miracle—three o’clock Tuesday afternoon will be the end”—but somehow writer and art dealer Mrs. Jones likes him.
Together, they sit in cafés, hatch grand plans, and share their artistic aspirations and disappointments. And they become friends. But as they grow ever closer, Mrs. Jones begins to realize just how powerful Insel’s hold over her is.
Unpublished during Loy’s lifetime, Insel—which is loosely based on her friendship with the painter Richard Oelze—is a supremely surrealist, deliberately excessive creation: baroque in style, yet full of deft comedy and sympathy. Now, with an alternate ending only recently unearthed in the Loy archives, Insel is finally back in print, and Loy’s extraordinary achievement can be appreciated by a new generation of readers.