Breakfast in the Ruins
Dust-jacket from the first edition
|Publisher||New English Library|
|Media type||Print (hardback)|
|LC Class||PZ4.M8185 Br PR6063.O59|
Breakfast in the Ruins: A Novel of Inhumanity is a 1972 novel by Michael Moorcock, which mixes historical and speculative fiction. It was first published in the United Kingdom by the New English Library. The novel centres on Karl Glogauer, who is also the protagonist of Moorcock's Nebula Award winning novella, Behold the Man, his homosexual exploits with an unnamed man from Nigeria, and his fantasies of the past and lives that he could have led.
The novel is divided into nineteen chapters, the first of which is set in the 'present' (1971), the next seventeen spaced out at roughly ten-year intervals from 1871 through to 1990, with the last chapter set once again in the present. The chapters begin and end in the present, with a short scene involving Glogauer and the man, which vary from philosophical discussion to sex involving dominance and submission. The chapters are each also followed, except for chapter nineteen, by a short section entitled What would you do?, which presents sadistic choices, a Morton's Fork, such as:
|“||You have three children.
You are told that you can save any two of them from death, but not all three. You are given five-minutes to choose. Which one would you sacrifice?
The novel's first chapter begins in London, with Karl Glogauer travelling through Kensington on his way to the Derry and Tom's Roof Gardens. There, on a bench in the Spanish Gardens, he fantasises about the past, trying to put "his mother, his childhood as it actually was, [and] the failure of his ambitions" out of his head with ideals of Regency-era London politics, gambling, women and duelling.
His imaginations are interrupted by a "deep, slightly hesitant, husky" voice, a greeting of "Good afternoon", a dark-skinned man who spends the entirety of the novel unnamed. He first asks if he may join Glogauer on the bench, and then goes on to explain that he's merely visiting London, and that he hadn't expected to find such a place in the middle of the city. Glogauer wrongly assumes him to be a rich American tourist, annoyed to have been disturbed from his reverie.
The man then asks Glogauer if he may photograph him; Glogauer, now flattered, assents. While he's being photographed, the man explains that he's from Nigeria, attempting to convince the government of England to buy copper at a higher price. Glogauer says that he's an illustrator. The man then invites Glogauer to have tea with him, and Glogauer, feeling guilty, and, despite recalling his mother's words to not have anything to do with people who make you feel guilty, agrees.
After journeying through the Tudor and Woodland gardens, they dine at the restaurant. During the meal, Glogauer attempts to introduce himself. The man, however, does not respond, merely offering Glogauer the sugar bowl. He then asks Glogauer to "come back with me", to which Glogauer says "Yes".
The second chapter, introducing a format that is followed by most subsequent chapters, excluding the last, begins, in italics, with a short scene in the man's hotel suite. Glogauer has taken his clothes off, and lies naked on the bed. The man touches first his head, and then his shoulders. Glogauer closes his eyes, blocking reality out, and begins a fantasy, similar to that which was interrupted by the man in the first chapter. The ending of the chapter is also another scene, in italics, that is set in the present.
Some editions of the novel were printed with an introduction that contained a hoax about the death of Michael Moorcock, stating that he had "died of lung cancer, aged 31, last year". It also went on to state that the "whereabouts of Karl Glogauer" were unknown. The introduction was signed to James Colvin, a pseudonym that Moorcock, along with several others, had used on short stories appearing in New Worlds.
In Moorcock's The Bull and the Spear the character Jhary-a-Conel refers to Glogauer as an incarnation of the Eternal Champion. It is thought the unnamed Nigerian could be an incarnation of Jerry Cornelius or another of the companions to the eternal champion.
- Ian Davey. "Michael Moorcock Bibliography: Breakfast in the Ruins". Retrieved 18 April 2006.
- "What would you do? (5)". Breakfast in the Ruins. p. 53.
- Moorcock, Michael (1972). "Introduction". Breakfast in the Ruins. New English Library.