There’s something I love about surrealism that I don’t love about fables (or more so “modern fables”). I look at surrealism in terms of looking at the world in a flattened sense and then trying to represent that world as you see it without the assumptions and protections and stability of context. And in this collection of short fiction by the writer and painter Leonora Carrington (of both Mexico and the Uk) we get that kind of picture painted for us here.
And so of course the stories here are kind of bonkers in that way. Imagine a collection of short stories that inhabit the world of a Yorgos Lanthimos and circulate from there. What works here that doesn’t work in a lot of books I’ve read this year and last that retell and create fables and fairy tales is the absolute conviction of the language and the world in habiting. There’s NO context provided for a single one of these stories and there’s an absolute assuredness about each one. They’re mostly quite short and are quick to danger and violence. But they’re also really funny and weird and inviting.
I also suggest you go and look up her paintings. I had a blast flipping through her art on google and peering a little into the mind of this writer who I first discovered with her book The Hearing Trumpet that begins like a Barbara Pym novel and ends with Kafka. And so I think then that Kafka is the best analog here, because it feels like humor and nightmare and reality rinsed and filtered into language that almost presents it without metaphor.