THE CUSTOM-HOUSE OF DESIRE: A Half-Century of Surrealist Stories by J. H.--Ed. & Trans. Matthews

THE CUSTOM-HOUSE OF DESIRE: A Half-Century of Surrealist Stories

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Professor Matthews explored the influence of surrealism on film, the novel, poetry and theater in his earlier books. This anthology is designed to give a historical perspective on the surrealist short story, 1922-1973. The earliest specimen here is by Benjamin Peret, one of the leading collaborators on the seminal review La Revolution surrealiste, along with Soupault, Aragon, Eluard, Desnos and Crevel. None of these other major figures are represented. Andre Breton, chief theorist of the group, is continually quoted and referred to in both introduction and headnotes to the authors, but there's nothing of his here either. Matthews further explains that copyright difficulties precluded the work of Arp and Artaud. What remains--47 stories by 24 marginal writers--is uneven but critically interesting. The stories are dominated by the occurrence of ""the marvelous,"" by black humor and a rather playful eroticism. Whether they are the product of automatic writing or structured narratives, each story is an attempt to chart the subconscious and to protest against the 20th century mechanization of life. Since the movement was avowedly anti-literary (Matthews reports it was formally dissolved in 1969), le mot juste doesn't count as much as shock value. Viz., Leopoldo Chariarse's legend of the headhunters' sausages, Jean Ferry's tableturner on Kafka, Robert Lebel's concretization of Duchamp's Trois Stoppages. Georges Limbour introduces a lady in love with a horse; Joyce Mansour gives us a mute in love with a cancerous hump. Leonora Carrington presents a weasel masquerading as a debutante; and Fernando Arrabal's ""Folly Stone"" must be the most complex bizarrerie in the bunch--all about nuns who cook little boys in frying pans, vampires named Mama, enormous red hens with sharp beaks, spontaneous dismemberment and other forms of dream and dementia that take you inside the world of Dali, Magritte, Max Ernst.

Pub Date: Dec. 6th, 1975
Publisher: Univ. of California Press