It has happened again: a book that I dreaded reading and put off for as long as I could has deeply rewarded me. Carrington's stories are fairy tales, full of whimsical, beautiful, and sometimes horrible imagery, that speak to our innermost fears, hurts, and psychological complexities.
As a trained visual artist with an interest in simplicity and editing, I shy away from surrealist art.
As a casual reader and an untrained writer, I find Carrington's surrealist words and phrasing, and the pictures she paints with them, delightful and inspiring: "Near the fire, a teapot waited quietly to be poured." "I have a dress made entirely of the heads of cats. It's very beautiful. If you were to see it... At one time that was just the height of fashion." The world she writes is unique and full of these passages.
I recommend this sweet and disturbing collection of short stories.
— Barbette Houser
“Complete Stories, a collection of Carrington’s published and unpublished short stories—many newly translated from their original French and Spanish—is a terrific introduction to her bizarre, dreamlike worlds.” —Carmen Maria Machado, NPR
Surrealist writer and painter Leonora Carrington (1917–2011) was a master of the macabre, of gorgeous tableaus, biting satire, roguish comedy, and brilliant, effortless flights of the imagination. Nowhere are these qualities more ingeniously brought together than in the works of short fiction she wrote throughout her life.
Published to coincide with the centennial of her birth, The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington collects for the first time all of her stories, including several never before seen in print. With a startling range of styles, subjects, and even languages (several of the stories are translated from French or Spanish), The Complete Stories captures the genius and irrepressible spirit of an amazing artist’s life.
About the Author
Leonora Carrington (1917–2011) was a key figure in the Surrealist movement and an artist of remarkable individuality. She was born to a wealthy English family in 1917, expelled from two convents as a girl, and presented to the king's court in 1933. Four years later, she ran off with Max Ernst and became a darling of the art world in Paris: serving guests hair omelets at one party, arriving naked to another. After Ernst was taken from their home to a Nazi internment camp in 1940, Carrington fled France. Nearly mad with grief and terror, she was thrown into a lunatic asylum in Spain, and, after escaping, married a Mexican diplomat, fleeing Europe for New York City then Mexico City, where she lived for the rest of her life. Throughout her long career, Carrington published novels, stories, and plays, in addition to making paintings, sculptures, and tapestries.
Kathryn Davis has received the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is the author of many novels, including Labrador, The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf, Hell, The Walking Tour, The Thin Place, Versailles, Duplex, and Silk Road. In 2006 she received the Lannan Literary Award for Fiction. She is the senior fiction writer in the MFA program at Washington University in St. Louis.
“In both her prose and her visual art, Carrington dissolves the borders between human and inhuman, fantasy and reality, death and life. In The Complete Stories we meet a mad queen who uses squirming live sponges to wash herself; a corpse that casts a circle of light in the forest; and a horse-woman who lives among plants and animals because humans won't accept her hybrid state. Whenever Carrington's heroines are forced to pledge allegiance, they always choose the company of beasts.” —Joy Press, Los Angeles Times
“This is the best description of what it feels like to read her work: In the middle of the fluffy fairy tale, something bristles, something unpleasantly familiar, something human and frightening.” —Parul Sehgal, The New York Times Book Review
“This definitive collection of Carrington's short fiction is a treasure and a gift to the world. A stunning achievement.” —Jeff VanderMeer
“Leonora Carrington has unswervingly followed the intensity of her own particular vision and way of being. . . . Her work bristles with a fierce, unconventional brand of feminism; anger gives it its final edge of irony and power.” —Angela Carter
“Her delirious fantasy reveals to us a little of the secret magic of her paintings.” —Luis Buñuel
“The writing is as neat, dry and witty as the content is wild, woolly and portentous.” —The Times Literary Supplement
“Kathryn Davis's wonderful introduction to this complete collection (published in conjunction with the centennial of Carrington's birth) is a satisfying piece on its own, delightedly preparing the reader for a writer bestowed with a satisfying mix of the most wicked yet tender of visions.” —Entropy
“Carrington's stories are optimistic and nihilistic, beautiful and grotesque, tender and cruel. She never contented herself with something simple or trite, a philosophy of life that can be shortened and simplified and put in a fortune cookie.” —Sheila Heti
“Her protagonists speak to gods, monsters, parents, and strangers in the same fearlessly ironic voice. Irrational or horrible things happen to people in these stories just as they do in fairy tales, dreams, the Bible, and real life. Intending to destroy dualistic viewpoints, Carrington offers no glib moral judgments.” —The Village Voice
“Her stories are vivid, funny and surprisingly fresh . . . [combining] satire with surrealist situations to deftly mock the pomposity of organized religion, sexual repression or the endless forms of bureaucratic hypocrisy and ineptitude.” —The New York Times
“A menagerie of eccentric humans, bloodthirsty talking animals, and hybrid creatures is on display in her fantastic, and fantastical, collection of stories.” —Publishers Weekly
“The Complete Stories and Down Below are both remarkable books; read together they are almost overwhelming. The Carrington centennial should stand as one of the great literary events of 2017. I know that I will be pressing these books on friends, family, and acquaintances for years to come.” —Tor.com