‘I do not think there is any writer working in English at present who is more subtly inventive or more original than Gabriel Josipovici.’ ‘Only Joking is a witty, complex comedy of machinations, mirror figures, sex and love, art, and verbal dexterity . . . [The novel] is, at the end, both a lark and a view, from a more relaxed perspective, of the same concerns one can find in Gabriel Josipovici’s recent fictions, including Goldberg: Variations (2002) and Everything Passes (2006). His power of invention is remarkable, and his example – of a mind that refuses to go through the motions and simply write another book just like the last – is inspiring.’
– Tales from the Reading Room
– You know what the secret of being a good clown is, Elspeth? he asks.
– No, she says. You’ve told me but I’ve forgotten.
– Innocence, Elspeth, he says. A clown is innocent. He is innocent because he has not been born into our world. He is innocent, Elspeth, because he has not been born at all.
Alphonse, an accordion-playing ex-clown, is hired by the Baron to spy on his wife, for whom, unknown to the Baron, he is already working. The intricate shadow-play that ensues moves at a pace that quickly blurs the distinctions between jokes and lies, art and evidence, until with a final tug at the strings the characters – barons, clowns, art students, art collectors, film-makers, restaurateurs – are brought into unexpected alignment with their several objects of desire.
‘Only Joking has the light heart which can be revealed at the further end of a literary career . . . The great success of Josipovici’s technique here is that not only is the effect like that of watching something between an Ealing comedy and a very sparky and accessible French nouvelle vague film, but it also sharpens our own responses to the layers of deceit going on . . . Frivolous or not, it is a complete pleasure.’
– Nicholas Lezard, Guardian (complete review here)
– Jeff Bursey, Winnipeg Review
‘Only Joking shows the author at his comic best.’
– Mark Thwaite, ReadySteadyBook