Saturday, April 20, 2013

Michel Leiris was a French Surrealist

It is the birthday of French writer Michel Leiris (1901), who wrote his Surrealist novel, Aurora, in Paris in 1926-27 but didn't publish it until 1946.  He was heavily influenced by Pablo Picasso and Joan MirĂ³ and other Cubist painters as well as by experimental writers like AndrĂ© Breton, who is credited with founding the Surrealist movement in 1924. In Aurora and other works, Leiris was fascinated with the associative power of language, with wordplay and puns. In Aurora, he describes living in an attic and descending the stairs into historical events in the time of Alexander the Great. The poetic prose takes the reader on a bizarre journey that with ephemeral images of stark deserts, massive gray castles, and women caressed by warm rain. Leiris was also an accomplished ethnographer who wrote Phantom Africa (1934), The Sacred in Everyday Life (1938), and Race and Civilization (1951).

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