Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

A Man in Love - a Surrealist Set in Paris Short Story by Leonora Carrington - 1938

 Paris in July 2020 - Hosted by Thyme for Tea

Leonora Carrington- Britain's Last Surrealist. 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)

The Reading Life Leonora Carrington Project

A Man in Love - a Surrealistic Short Story Set in Paris by Leonora Carrington - 1938

Leonora Carrington

Born - April 6, 1917 - Lancashire, England

Died - May 25, 2011 - Mexico City

(There is bio data in the Links above.)

Leonora Carrington only spent in her long life about sixteen months in Paris.  These months shaped her art and writings.  She first visited Paris at age ten, with her very wealthy family. While there she sees for the first time surrealistic art.  In 1936 while in Germany she meets and begins a romance with a famous Surrealist painter, Max Ernst.  They spend much of 1937 and part of 1938 in
Paris.  Carrington begins there her Career as a painter, highly influenced by contemporary French art.  Suurealism was considered a decadent art form by the Nazis and Ernst fled to America.  She and Ernst never saw each other again.  After much  drama, a mental break down, she got permision to move to Mexico, with a stop in New York City.
facilitated by a marriage to a Mexican diplomat.  She came to love Mexico.  Her paintings were very impacted by her encounters with Mexican traditions.

From The Website of The Tate Museum in London

“Surrealism aimed to revolutionise human experience, rejecting a rational vision of life in favour of one that asserted the value of the unconscious and dreams. The movement’s poets and artists found magic and strange beauty in the unexpected and the uncanny, the disregarded and the unconventional.”

A Man in Love, included in The Complete Short Stories of Leonora Carrington, is set in Paris, told by a woman there on a visit.  It is a very strange story, delightful and disturbing.  Seemingly tbings from a Jungian under world are narrated as just ordinary evey day events.

As the story opens I knew to expect a very entertaining few minutes.

“Walking down a narrow street one evening, I stole a melon. The fruit seller, who was lurking behind his fruit, caught me by the arm. “Miss, I’ve been waiting for a chance like this for forty years. For forty years I’ve hidden behind this pile of oranges in the hope that somebody might pinch some fruit. And the reason for that is this: I want to talk, I want to tell my story. If you don’t listen, I’ll hand you over to the police.” “I’m listening,” I told him. He took me by the arm and dragged me into the depths of his shop amongst the fruit and vegetables. We went through a door at the back and reached a room where there was a bed in which lay a woman, motionless and probably dead. It seemed to me that she must have been there a long time, for the bed was overgrown with grass.”

And from this start things get even stranger.

Everyday for forty years fruit vendor has watered his wife, not knowing whether she was dead or not.

Here is how he and his wife met

“Her father was an extraordinary man. He had a big house in the country. He was a collector of lamb cutlets. The way we met was this. I have this special little gift. It’s that I can dehydrate meat just by looking at it. Mr. Pushfoot (that was his name) heard about me. He asked me to come to his house to dehydrate meat”

They fall in love.  On what appears to be their wedding day his wife, Agnes, is very tired after a brief cruise on the Seine.  The man stop at an inn and asks for a room.

“‘Speak to the wolves. I’m not in charge here. Please let me sleep.’ “I understood that the crone was mad, and that there was no sense in going on. Agnes was still weeping. I walked around the house several times and in the end managed to open a window through which we entered. We found ourselves in a high-ceilinged kitchen, where there was a large stove, glowing red with fire. Some vegetables were cooking themselves, jumping around in boiling water; this game delighted them. We ate well and afterwards lay down to sleep on the floor. I held Agnes in my arms. We didn’t sleep
a wink. There were all sorts of things in that terrible kitchen. A great number of rats sat on the threshold of their holes and sang with shrill, disagreeable little voices. Foul smells spread and dispersed one after the other, and there were strange draughts. I think it was the draughts that finished off my poor Agnes. She was never herself again. From that day on she spoke less and less …” At that, the owner of the fruit shop was so blinded by his tears that I was able to make my escape with my melon.”

I was left baffled by this story, what deep symbolic shamanistic meaning was I missing?

1 comment:

Brona said...

Wow! Those surrealists sure know how to mess with your head. Carrington is unknown to me, so thanks for alerting me to her, I'll see if I can find some of her stories. I like short stories - I'm going through a Katherine Mansfield phase at the moment though, a modernist, and another writer seduced by the charms of Paris.