The Reading Life Leonora Carrington Project
I will remember April, 2017 as the month I "discovered" Leonora Carrington. I know most of us living a reading life have had the experience of being amazed by a new to us writer, someone you had never even heard about before the day you first read their work. You do a bit of Googling only to learn you are seemingly among the very few who have not long ago read their work. This is a humbling experience but also one of the great pleasures of the reading life world has to offer. This is how I feel now about Leonora Carrington. (Be sure and look at her art work also.)
As "My Beloved" opens, it is structured as the narrator repeating the story of another, a man tells a very strange story
"Without letting me go, he took me to the inside of the store, among fruits and vegetables. We shut a door at the far end, and we reached a room where there was a bed on which an immovable and probably dead woman lay. It appeared to me that she had been there for a long time since the bed was covered with weeds. “I water her every day,” said the fruitman with a pensive air. “In 40 years I have not succeeded in knowing whether she is dead or not. She has never moved, nor spoken, nor eaten during that time. But the curious thing is that she remains warm. If you don’t believe me, look.”
My main purpose in posting on her very brief and very weird short story, "The Beloved", reading time under five minutes) is to keep a record of my path through her work and to let my others interested know it can be read online. (It is included in The Oval Lady Six Stories by Leonora Carrington, published in 1975. I do not yet know if that was where it first published, if you know, please tell me.)
One of the surrealistic markers of the short stories of Carrington is the telling of very strange totally absurd defying all logic events in a completely straightforward fashion, as if the talking head of an old woman on a rope in "The Beloved" who says she is not the landlord, rather the fox is is perfectly normal and requires no explanation.
You can see the charm of the story here
"There was no other remedy than to direct ourselves to the fox. ‘Have you beds?’ I asked several times. Nobody responded: he didn’t know how to speak. And again the head, older than the other, but which now descended slowly through the window tied to the end of a little cord. ‘Direct yourself to the wolves; I am not the landlord here. Let me sleep! please!’ I understood that that head was crazy and I did not have the heart to continue. Agnes kept crying. I walked around the house a few times and finally, I was able to open a window, through which we entered. Then we found ourselves in a kitchen with a high ceiling; over a large oven made hot by fire were some vegetables that were cooking and they jumped in the boiling water, a thing that much amused us. We ate well and then we laid ourselves down on the floor. I had Agnes in my arms. We did not sleep. That terrible kitchen contained all kinds of things. Many rats had stuck their heads out of their holes"
I don't doubt this has echoes of mythological and religious references I am not yet getting but really the story is just so much fun.
In observation of the 100th birth anniversary (April 6, 1917) of Leonora Carrington two collections of her short stories and a fascinating sounding biography by Joanna Moorhead, The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington are being published. Carrington was very closely associated with the Surrealist movement, both personally and artistically. (In the long ago I visited the Museum of the Museo Nationale de Anthropologia in Mexico City where I must have seen one of her works. Her art is on display in major museums throughout the world.) There are several good articles giving an overview of the life and work of Carrington online, the one from the BBC I linked above is a very good first resource as is our old standby, Wikipedia.
Leonora Carrington- Britain's Last Surrealist Tate Shots. A wonderful beautifully done video - (By the author of The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington, Joanna Moorhead, includes a conversation with Carrington as well as images of her art)
Leonora Carrington A Surrealist Trip from Lancashire to Mexico. From the BBC
You can read "The Beloved" here