Friday, November 20, 2015

Featured: New From Wakefield & Atlas Press

Unica Zürn, The Trumpets Of Jericho
Translated, with an introduction, by Christina Svendsen
This fierce fable of childbirth by German Surrealist Unica Zürn was written after she had already given birth to two children and undergone the self-induced abortion of another in Berlin in the 1950s. Beginning in the relatively straightforward, if disturbing, narrative of a young woman in a tower (with a bat in her hair and ravens for company) engaged in a psychic war with the parasitic son in her belly, The Trumpets of Jericho dissolves into a beautiful nightmare of hypnotic obsession and mythical language, stitched together with anagrams and private ruminations. Arguably Zürn's most extreme experiment in prose, and never before translated into English, this novella dramatizes the frontiers of the body—its defensive walls as well as its cavities and thresholds—animating a harrowing and painfully, twistedly honest depiction of motherhood as a breakdown in the distinction between self and other, transposed into the language of darkest fairy tales.
Unica Zürn (1916–70) was born in Grünewald, Germany. Toward the end of World War II, she discovered the realities of the Nazi concentration camps—a revelation which was to haunt and unsettle her for the rest of her life. After meeting Hans Bellmer in 1953, she followed him to Paris, where she became acquainted with the Surrealists and developed the body of drawings and writings for which she is best remembered: a series of anagram poems, hallucinatory accounts and literary enactments of the mental breakdowns from which she would suffer until her suicide in 1970.

Joris-Karl Huysmans, A DilemmaTranslated, with an introduction, by Justin Vicari

Originally published in book form in French in 1887, Joris-Karl Huysmans’s A Dilemma remains a particularly nasty little tale, a mordantly satiric and cruel account of bourgeois greed and manipulation that holds up as clear a mirror to today's neoliberalist times as it did to the French fin-de-siècle. Written in-between Huysmans’ most famous works—his 1881 Against Nature, which came to define the Decadent movement, and his 1891 exploration of Satanism, Down ThereA Dilemma presents some of the author’s most memorable characters, including Madame Champagne, the self-appointed Parisian protector of women in need, and the carnal would-be sophisticate notary Le Ponsart, who wages a war of words with the bereft pregnant mistress of his deceased grandson with devastating consequences. In its unflinching portrayal of how authoritarian language can be used and abused as a weapon, this novella stands as Huysmans’s indictment of the underlying crime of the novel itself: a language apparatus employed to maintain the appetites of the ruling class.
Earning a wage through a career in the French civil service,  
Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848–1907) quietly explored the extremes of human nature and artifice through a series of books that influenced a number of different literary movements: from the grey and grimy Naturalism of books like Marthe and Downstream to the cornerstones of the Decadent movement, Against Nature and the Satanist classic Down There, along with the dream-ridden Surrealist favorite, Becalmed, and his Catholic novels, The Cathedral and The Oblate.
Huysmans is surrealist in pessimism.”—André Breton

Giambattista Marino, The Massacre Of The InnocentsTranslated, with an introduction, by Erik Butler
A finely crafted epic and literary monstrosity from the seventeenth-century “poet of the marvelous”: the harrowing account, in four bloody cantos, of King Herod and his campaign to murder the male infants of his kingdom to prevent the loss of his throne to the prophesied King of the Jews. The book starts in the pits of Hell, where the Devil stokes the flames of Herod’s paranoid bloodlust in his troubled sleep, and concludes in the heights of Heaven where the “unarmed champions” march on to eternal glory. In between is an account of physical and political brutality that unfortunately holds too clear a mirror to world events today. The Massacre of the Innocents describes unbelievable cruelty while championing the nobility of suffering, all brilliantly translated and presented in ottava rima.
Italian poet and adventurer  
Giambattista Marino (1569–1625) was deemed “the king of his age,” and his very name came to define the style of an epoch: marinismo, a shorthand summation of the bizarre inventiveness and ornate excesses of Baroque poetry. In and out of jail, and escaping an assassination attempt by a rival, Marino spent a good part of his life in Northern Italy and France before returning to his birthplace of Naples. His most famous work, L’Adone (Adonis), stands as one of the longest Italian epics ever written, and for two centuries was deemed a monstrous epitome of Baroque bad taste.

Bruno Corra, Sam Dunn Is Dead

Sam Dunn is Dead, described by its author as a “Futurist Novel”, was first published in book form by Filippo Marinetti’s Edizioni Futuriste. However, one will search in vain for any mention of this work in anthologies or histories of Futurism.
This is doubtless because it is so unlike anything else produced by Futurism (so ardent, so masculine, so positive and so absurdly serious). Sam Dunn is none of these, and above all else it is a miniature masterpiece of black humour — the last thing likely to be associated with the posturings of Marinetti and his acolytes.
Not only is Sam Dunn funny, despairing, cerebral and ludicrous, it also traces a history of the modern spirit. Its eponymous hero, a poet in languid 1890s mould, unleashes a thoroughly contemporary apocalypse upon the world. Subsequent chapters could be taken for Dadaist or Surrealist texts (but written a decade before their time), and then the whole edifice is fatally undermined by forces that are both banal and… unusual.
Corra later considered his novel a failure, but he was mistaken. His sensitivity to the great undertows of history that were then working their way to the surface seems alarmingly prescient — and anyway his opinion does nothing to inhibit the reader’s simple enjoyment of the book’s deliriously ebullient nihilism.


Le Grand Jeu (The Great Game)

René Daumal, Roger Gilbert-Lecomt, etc

Between 1928 and 1930 the Paris magazine Le Grand Jeu (The Great Game) ran to three issues before collapsing because of its editors’ infighting, their over-indulgence in chemical stimulants, and vehemently unreasonable aspirations for both art and life. The group is often associated with Surrealism (they were invited to join the group), but the ideas of the Grand Jeu were far more extreme. The magazine was the public face of a tightly bound group of artists and writers who since adolescence had systematically attacked their perceptions of reality by means of narcotics, anaesthesia and near-death experiences.
Their writings describe an uncompromising politico-mystical outlook which combined a critique of the apathy of contemporary Western society with a quest to take leave of the individual ego and reconnect with a collective Universal Mind. The group’s esoteric programme united drug use, occult and parapsychological practices with asceticism, revolutionary politics (the Russian Revolution was barely a decade old) and a prophetic mode of poetry which they identified in antecedents such as Rimbaud and Mallarmé. Such a wildly over-ripe synthesis was no doubt inevitably doomed, but in its failure the Grand Jeu left an indelible mark on the history of those movements which have refused point-blank to accept the world as it is.
The ideas of the Grand Jeu group are presented here in their own words, as they appeared in their magazine. This is the first and definitive collection of these writers to appear in English.

 These books, and thousands of others, can be purchased from:

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215 592 1207

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