The Encyclopedia of Stupidity
A brilliant analysis of stupidity in all its facets
Matthijs van Boxsel thinks that no one is intelligent enough to understand his or her own stupidity. In De encyclopedie van de domheid he shows how stupidity manifests itself in all areas, in everyone, at all times: stupidity is the foundation of our civilization.
Van Boxsel has made it his life’s work to record all facets of stupidity. In short chapters with such titles as ‘The Blunderclub’, ‘Fools in Hell’, ‘Genealogy of Idiots’, and ‘The Esthetics of the Empty Gesture’, stupidity is analyzed on the basis of fairy tales, cartoons, triumphal arches, garden architecture, baroque ceilings, jokes, flimsy excuses, and science fiction.
But Van Boxsel wants to do more than just assemble a shadow cabinet of wisdom; he tries to fathom the logic of this opposite world. Where do understanding and intelligence begin and where do they end? Mythic fools like Cyclops and King Midas, cities like Gotham, the dumb blonde, and everything that symbolizes stupidity in our culture, like a goose, a donkey, a headless chicken, all are reviewed here.
Van Boxsel takes stupidity seriously, as did Musil, unlike Flaubert, who used satire and irony as weapons against stupidity. Van Boxsel puts forward the provocative premise that stupidity is a condition for intelligence, that blunders stimulate progress, that failure is the basis for success. In a scholarly and witty book, Van Boxsel maintains that our culture is the product of a series of failed attempts to comprehend stupidity.