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Down Below (NYRB Classics) Paperback – April 18, 2017
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“[B]rief and unflinchingly honest...a candid, painful, and personal account of someone’s darkest hours...In a very helpful introduction to the book, novelist Marina Warner writes that Carrington was persuaded to write the memoir by surrealism’s literary founder, André Breton, who viewed her genuine, unaffected descent into true madness as surrealism at its most pure. As such, it seems a case can be made that this little book is indeed the gold standard of surrealist literature.” —Publishers Weekly
“Down Below is not only a radical reworking of the Surrealist narrative of female madness: it is a sophisticated experiment with reason, subjectivity and the narrative voice, in which Carrington is able to speak clearly of madness from the outside, to speak clearly of what is within it, of its ins and outs, without committing wholly to memoir or to art.” —Joanna Walsh, Verso Books (blog)
"Her stories are vivid, funny and surprisingly fresh...[they] combine satire with surrealist situations to deftly mock the pomposity of organized religion, sexual repression or the endless forms of bureaucratic hypocrisy and ineptitude... She controls her imagery, amuses us with her tweaking of the bourgeoisie and moves us with her dazzling dreamscapes, all the while firmly maintaining her slightly bemused sang-froid." —Richard Burgin, The New York Times
"While other Surrealists played at madness, she was intimate with it." —Peter Campbell, London Review of Books
About the Author
Leonora Carrington (1917–2011) was born in Lancashire, England, to an industrialist father and an Irish mother. She was raised on fantastical folk tales told to her by her Irish nanny at her family’s estate, Crookhey Hall. Carrington would be expelled from two convent schools before enrolling in art school in Florence. In 1937, a year after her mother gave her a book on surrealist art featuring Max Ernst’s work, she met the artist at a party. Not long after, Carrington and the then-married Ernst settled in the south of France, where Carrington completed her first major painting, The Inn of the Dawn Horse (Self-Portrait), in 1939. In the wake of Ernst’s imprisonment by the Nazis, Carrington fled to Spain, where she suffered a nervous breakdown and was committed to a mental hospital in Madrid. She eventually escaped to the Mexican embassy in Lisbon and settled first in New York and later in Mexico, where she married the photographer Imre Weisz and had two sons. Carrington spent the rest of her life in Mexico City, moving in a circle of like-minded artists that included Remedios Varo and Alejandro Jodorowsky. Among Carrington’s published works is a novel, The Hearing Trumpet (1976), and two collections of short stories. A group of stories she wrote for her children, collected as The Milk of Dreams, is published by The New York Review Children’s Collection; her Complete Stories is published by Dorothy, a Publishing Project in the United States and by Silver Press in the United Kingdom.
Marina Warner’s studies of religion, mythology, and fairy tales include Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary, From the Beast to the Blonde, and Stranger Magic (National Book Critics Circle Award for Literary Criticism; Truman Capote Prize). A Fellow of the British Academy, Warner is also a professor of English and creative writing at Birkbeck College, London. In 2015 she was given the Holberg Prize.
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