The Island of San Serriffe

Two spoof April Fool’s day articles that appeared in the Guardian (UK) newspaper. Many thanks to Ernest Bray for submitting these.

Guide to the Republic

Population: (1973 census) 1,782,724 consisting of approx. Europeans and mixed race 640,000; Flongs 574,000 Creoles 271,000; Malaysians 1,17,000; Arabs 92,000; others 88,000.

In recent years the Flongs have been ethnically cleansed by the Quarks following the infiltration of the American-backed Democratic Teaching Party (DTP). They have almost all been deleted.

Capital: Bodoni.

Tourist centres: Garamondo, Villa Pica, Gillcameo, Cap Em, Umbra and Perpetua.

President: General G. H. Pica (elected for life 1971)
Prime minister: Angelico Pica
Minister of the interior: Rodolfo Pica
Foreign Secretary: Martin Pica
Minister of Education, Public Enlightenment, Public Affairs and Women’s rights; Esmeralda Pica.

Three other members of the Pica family-Guiseppe, Adolf and Luigi are serving life sentences on the coach for treason and cockin’ a deaf un.

Leader of the opposition: Ralph Baskerville who is married to Esmeralda. They came to power after the overthrow of General Minion in 1971. The Picas survive to this day.

Currency: The San Serriffe Corona (100 ems) has become one of the hardest currencies, standing at C1=£0.918.

Language: English is the working language. Caslon is used on ceremonial occasions and there was a language (Ki-flong) indigenous to the Flongs. Quark is also widely understood.

Religion: Christian. Bishop: Rt Rev Martin Goudy.

Lord Wrongfont of St Brides, was the last occupant of the British Residency. His statue in Gutenberg Square has been carefully maintained by succeeding administrations.

San Serriffe

Return to Sans Serriffe

When the world first heard of San Serriffe in April 1977, the tiny state was a sleepy island paradise under the authoritarian leadership of an unpopular general. Visiting the archipelago 22 years on, Berlin Sans discovers a vibrant nation transformed by a visionary leader
Berlin Sans
Thursday April 01 1999
The Guardian

The centre of Bodoni, the capital of San Serriffe, was, as ever, confused last night as it prepared to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of its discovery, the most dramatic event in the patchy – even blotchy – history of this remote sea-girt nation.

Previous anniversaries had been celebrated with little ceremony. Indeed under the stern military rule of the strongman, General Pica, and his obscure successor (note to subs: have forgotten his name, please check) few Serriffeans felt they had much to celebrate.

However, since free elections were held and the handsome, popular, charismatic, boyish, charming, dynamic, modest, new leader Antonio Bourgeois was catapulted into office, the atmosphere in San Serriffe has been transformed. Nothing has actually happened, but the atmosphere has been transformed.

Regular followers of politics in this region will recall that San Serriffe comprises two islands, Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse, shaped curiously like a semi-colon, sited (usually) in the Indian Ocean. Since the country briefly hit global headlines in 1977, Western journalists have steered clear, in the belief that little was to be gained from visiting these shores, particularly in the matter of expenses.

However, the figure 22 has a peculiar symbolic power in the mystic tradition of the Flong people, San Serriffe’s indigenous tribe. There are, for instance, (approximately) 22 people in a Serriffean cabinet, 22 verses in the national anthem and 22 miles between the Upper Caisse port of Adze and Cap Em on the southern island. Accordingly, traditionalists have this year secured funding from the San Serriffean National Lottery for a full programme of cultural celebratory events.

A mysterious large object is being erected for the occasion by the banks of the Tempo River as a monument to Mr Bourgois’s martyred compadre, Pierre Myriad. Mr Myriad had planned to live there (despite concerns that its 14 acres would be a little cramped) until he was tragically struck a fatal blow on the head by a very large sum of money. Now it will stand as the political memorial to a man whose fight for an end to social inequality won him the undying love and admiration of several of his political associates. The monument is to be decorated with special wallpaper supplied by the Government’s legal adviser, Lord Grot.

Much has changed since the long years of Pica-ist rule. General Pica maintained an iron grip on power until being forced out in a palace coup in 1990 by General Melior – known as The Obscure One – who tricked his way into the General’s Office under the pretext of clearing away the coffee things. Pica is rarely spotted these days, emerging only from the ex-presidential hideaway to drink cups of tea and reminisce about torture techniques with other leaders from the old days. Elderly recalcitrant Pica-ists have grouped themselves round An Even More Obscure One, and conduct occasional meetings of dissidents in a Villa Pica telephone booth.

While General Pica was known to be flattered by occasional comparisons to Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, San Serriffe’s current leader, Mr Bourgeois, is a great admirer of current British policies and has repeatedly sought inspiration for his fledgling democracy from the successes of the Blair government. He has asked for a visit from Britain’s Prime Minister and was told San Serriffe had been short-listed for a possible trip during Labour’s fifth term, circa 2017.

Council of Flong tribal elders

In the meantime, the Bourgeois government is attempting to follow its own interpretation of Blairite policies. The principles of the Third Way have been translated into Serriffean, in which they are generally rendered as The Urinma Way or The Getoutama Way. The council of Flong tribal elders, which has retained influence over San Serriffean policies for generations, is to be abolished and replaced by a group of the Bourgeois family’s dining companions, known as Antonio’s Cronios. `Of course, Antonio’s friends have done well since we took office,’ said his relentlessly charming spokesman Mr Courier. `Everyone is Antonio’s friend. Got that, fatface?’ Power, meanwhile, is also being devolved to the regions. On Lower Caisse, where resentment has always festered about edicts from the distant capital, autonomy has been granted under the slogan: `Lower caisse solutions for lower caisse problems.’ The Government is insisting only that it approves those solutions in advance, and the ! identity of the people doing the solving.

The minister formerly in charge of Lower Caisse has now been allowed to pursue his special interest of encouraging public usage of urban green spaces in the evenings. As a sign of his willingness to embrace the best of Serriffean tradition even in post-modern society, Mr Bourgeois allowed the new minister, a Mr Minion, to be elected using the ancient tribal counting method whereby the candidate with the fewest votes was declared the winner. This was such a success that it may be employed again during the forthcoming election for the mayoralty of Bodoni.

Another example of the way San Serriffe is successfully blending old and new comes during the annual budget statement when Mr Bembo, the finance minister, regularly gets up and ritualistically shouts `Everyone’s rich, everyone’s rich’ whereupon all the members of the legislature – the Fourniers – shout back: `We are, O wise one, we are.’ Mr Bourgois’s deputy, Mr Baskerville, has taken personal responsibility for the nation’s transport system. He is often to be found on the platforms at Bodoni Central or Perpetua Junction shouting at engine drivers. Under a decree issued in the last days of General Pica’s obscure successor, trains were sold off by the Government under instrructions that they could only be driven by girls who had never had sexual intercourse. This is believed to explain the staff shortages.

Mr Bembo takes the view that life is now so good for the average Serriffean that travel is not a priority. Mr Baskerville himself, and his colleague Mr Centaur – known humorously as the Enforcer – undertake this arduous task on behalf of other Serriffeans and force themselves, in the line of duty, to travel overseas in the front of aeroplanes, which is well-known to be more dangerous than sitting at the back. This hardship is readily endured by these brave men, who accept the loneliness of command, though their souls ache to be able to commune with other Serriffeans.

The Government hopes to ensure that those of its people still forced to eke out their days doing humdrum jobs, like making cars, will soon be able to spend their days enjoying leisure pursuits without their lives being polluted by the sordid distraction of making money.

It is this thoughtfulness about the populace that has made the Government so beloved, and the press coverage so adoring – that, and the fact that Mr Courier has threatened to purge any elements on the Government newspaper, Nugradia, who say anything to the contrary.

Brief history of a nation on the move

1794 Captain Meriwether Lewis reports that waters immediately east of the San Serriffe archipelago offer clear passage.

1796 The schooner Excelsior, under Sir Charles Clarendon, runs aground just east of the islands, prompting Clarendon to observe in his diary that `the land is being eaten bye the see and raising hazardes to the Island Easte’.

1922 The San Serriffean football team is defeated 13-0 by England on its first visit to Wembley.

1967 San Serriffe acquires independence.

1970 Scientists estimate that the process of erosion peculiar to the islands is causing them to drift towards Sri Lanka at a rate of 1.4km a year. Calculations suggest the islands will hit the coast of Sri Lanka on January 3, 2011.

1971 Regiments of General Pica’s dismounted cavalry overthrow government of General Minion.

1972 San Serrife expelled from Commonwealth and Organisation of Itinerant States (OIS).

1973 Oil discovered off Caissa Superiore.

1974 San Serriffe readmitted to Commonwealth and OIS, and invited to join NATO.

1977 A Guardian feature on the islands prompts $500 million of inward investment in just 12 months.

1980 San Serriffean football team is defeated 9-0 by England at Wembley 1982 General Pica rescues flagging popularity by personally leading commando force to liberate the island of Ova Mata, a Serriffean protectorate, following an invasion by Adobe forces.

1980 The San Serriffean football team is defeated 5-0 by England at Wembley.

1989 General Pica is deposed by cabal of senior officers who declare they are tired of listening to his stories about the Ova Mata campaign. General Melior, formerly Pica’s gardener, is appointed president. 1997 Antonio Bourgeois sweeps to power in island’s first free elections.

1998 Newsweek runs cover story asking: `Is Bodoni the world’s coolest city?’ 1999 The San Serriffean football team beats England 2-1 at Wembley amid protests over an alleged hand-ball incident.

Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited

Did you like this April Fool story? We have a great video where Doug Wilson of “Linotype: The Film” fame takes an in-depth look at this prank on our Forum here: Island of San Serriffe – Doug Wilson video – we also have details of another April Fool stunt here: Unusual Intertype.

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