By Enrique Vila-Matas, Anne McLean, Thomas Bunstead
A reader’s fictional journey of the artwork and lives of a few of the nice 20th-century Surrealists
An writer (a model of Vila-Matas himself) provides a quick “history” of a mystery society, the Shandies, who're keen about the concept that of “portable literature.” The society is solely imagined, yet during this rollicking, intellectually playful e-book, its individuals comprise writers and artists like Marcel Duchamp, Aleister Crowley, Witold Gombrowicz, Federico García Lorca, guy Ray, and Georgia O’Keefe. The Shandies meet secretly in flats, lodges, and cafes in every single place Europe to debate what nice literature quite is: short, no longer too critical, penetrating the depths of the mysterious. We witness the Shandies having adventures in desk bound submarines, underground caverns, African backwaters, and the cultural capitals of Europe.
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Extra info for A Brief History of Portable Literature (New Directions Paperbook)
Both were vagrants, always on the move, exiled from the world of art, and, at the same time, collectors weighed down by many things—that is, by passions. Both knew that to miniaturize is to make portable, and for a vagrant and an exile, that is the best way of owning things. But to miniaturize is also to conceal. Duchamp, for example, always felt drawn to extremely small things that cried out to be deciphered: insignia, manuscripts, symbols. For him, to miniaturize also meant to make “useless”: “What is reduced finds itself in a sense liberated from meaning.
I believe he even has a mania about keeping his ideas encased. . I attempted to seduce him and the best I could manage was to be allowed up to his apartment, but once inside he began to behave very oddly: he barely looked at me and only seemed interested in a number of folders that he transported convulsively from one place to another in his study. Some of these folders he moved around repeatedly, others he hid. I suppose they contained manuscripts of his novels. And I say suppose because all this time he insisted, over and over again, that he was not a novelist, and, horrified, I would say almost terrified, he denied ever having written anything about conspirators who swallow bombs and other such things.
The little paper they did use, they bought from a dealer in the nearby municipality of Saint-Joseph, in the middle of the island. He soon bankrupted the business buying his own merchandise. He’d occasionally write letters to Antheil begging forgiveness in an extraordinarily sincere tone that was nevertheless always belied by his unswerving inclusion at the end of the missive, each and every time, of the same postscript: “I’ve recently been working on perfecting the game of Love, availing myself of coal tar,” and then he’d cynically turn his signature (Typ(h)on) into a drawing of an insignia or medal.
A Brief History of Portable Literature (New Directions Paperbook) by Enrique Vila-Matas, Anne McLean, Thomas Bunstead