David Hughes‘ images – seven colour illustrations and seven black and white ‘integrated’ illustrations – respond to the anarchy of Kesey’s text, which is narrated by ‘Chief’ Bromden, an inmate in an Oregon mental institution.
When Randle Patrick McMurphy is transferred from prison, faking his insanity in order to serve out his sentence in the hospital, Nurse Ratched and her team find their authority challenged. The book examines wider notions of social order and freedom, and was published amid broad changes to the way psychiatric care was being facilitated in the US.
In addition to the illustrations in the book, Hughes has also handwritten the cover text, which renders four lines of the original nursery rhyme from which Kesey obtained his title for the novel.
Prior to writing his novel, Kesey had worked as a night aide in a psychiatric hospital and witnessed some of the controversial treatments, such as electroshock therapy, which were in practice at the time.
The new Folio editions also features an introduction by John Sutherland which explores the darker side of mental health provision in the 1960s.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is published by The Folio Society (£34.95). See foliosociety.com. The book is bound in buckram with a hand-lettered cover by Hughes. The text is set in Haarlemmer. More of Hughes’ work is at davidhughesillustration.co.uk