A Confederacy of Dunces is a picaresque novel written by John Kennedy Toole, published by LSU Press in 1980, 11 years after the author’s suicide. The book was published through the efforts of writer Walker Percy (who also contributed a revealing foreword) and Toole’s mother Thelma Toole, quickly becoming a cult classic, and later a mainstream success. Toole posthumously won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981. It is now considered a canonical work of modern Southern literature.
The title derives from the epigraph by Jonathan Swift: “When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” (Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting)
The story is set in New Orleans in the early 1960s. The central character is Ignatius J. Reilly, an educated but slothful 30-year-old man still living with his mother in the city’s Uptown neighborhood, who, due to an incident early in the book, must set out to get a job. In his quest for employment he has various adventures with colorful French Quarter characters.
I have walked past the statue of Ignatius J. Reilly tens of times now. It is located on Canal street near Bourbon. My friend Jeanie, a roguish hero of low social class who lives by her wits in a corrupt society herself , posed for the pic on her return from China.