A monkey named Fifi, two bicycles, some cheese, bread and water may not sound like the stuff of adventure novels, but for one writing couple, those items may have saved their lives in a daring escape from the Nazis. Fifi the monkey wasn’t literally a monkey, but a manuscript about a monkey whose name was changed later to George.
Hans and Margaret Rey, authors of the Curious George books, were German Jews who fled Paris in June of 1940, just hours before the Germans arrived. With the sale of a Fifi manuscript, they had purchased enough parts to make two bicycles. The Reys rode them for four days to reach Spain, where they sold the bikes for train fare to Lisbon. Fifi saved them again on the train when Hans was asked to empty his briefcase by officials who suspected him of spying. Fortunately, there were no secret documents, only Fifi manuscripts.
From Spain, the couple traveled to Portugal, then Brazil and finally New York, where they lived and published Curious George books for many years. By the way, it was the publisher’s idea to change the name from Fifi to George.
Makes me think a little differently about the man in the yellow hat.
Conradt, Stacy. Mental Floss. Curious George’s Great Escape. Oct 2012. Print