READING IN TRANSLATION reviews SURREALIST TEXTS

 Falling somewhere between short stories and prose poems in fluid translation by Ellen Nations, Surrealist Texts is an indispensable introduction to this fascinating writer.

Lucina Schell, READING IN TRANSLATION

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“Nations’s translations admirably resist the urge to clarify or normalize Prassinos’s surrealist prose. Complemented by Bruce Hutchinson’s beautiful watercolors in a limited edition of only 85 copies, Surrealist Texts makes a lovely gift for connoisseurs of surrealism. But the significance of this collection extends beyond its historical value. Like most surrealist literature, the stories are strange and even off-putting on the surface, but plumbing their depths reveals repressed truths, hidden within the subconscious, that are no less painful or true than when they were written.”

Read the complete text of Schell’s glowing review at the link below:

http://readingintranslation.com/2014/02/25/bleak-fairy-tales-gisele-prassinoss-surrealist-texts-translated-by-ellen-nations/

Surrealism Lives!

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We start the New Year off with a stunning collection of texts by Gisèle Prassinos—one of surrealism’s most gifted voices.

Prassinos was discovered at age 14 by André Breton who included her poetry in his seminal Anthologie de l’humour noir (1940). Breton commented: “The tone of Gisèle Prassinos is unique: all the poets are jealous of it.” Indeed, her haunting, childlike style remains unrivaled and her stories timeless. 

photo by Man Ray

Gisèle Prassinos reading her poems to the Surrealists (1934)
Photo © Man Ray Trust / ADAGP, Paris

Exquisitely translated from the French by Ellen Nations, this limited edition includes 20 transformative texts, plus eight original watercolor paintings by the artist Bruce Hutchinson.spread

That half the works in this collection were written when Prassinos was just fourteen and fifteen is evidence of how rare a prodigy she was. The surrealist’s sense of the word marvelous certainly applies to these strange creations.

Here is a taste of the text “Filial Devotion”…

He now found himself in the middle of a large lake where furniture made of mahogany, spruce and rosewood swam.Young girls in their panties gently fought each other by now and again blowing on their flushed arms.The man believed he recognized one of his daughters. But thinking it was only a hallucination, he retreated by swimming up to the adjoining door.There, he found himself in the presence of a very large and hairy stag.The stag’s eyes slowly became bigger and bigger as they gradually feasted on his whole egg-shaped face.

Only 85 copies are available for purchase.

Please click here to order.

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Ellen Nations, translator and photographer, grew up in Norway and has for many years made her home in the San Francisco Bay Area where she lives with her husband Opal Louis Nations. Together they published the experimental literature and art magazine Strange Faeces. In addition to her translations of Gisèle Prassinos, she has  translated works  by Alain Jouffroy, Paul Nougé, Raymond Radiguet, Joyce Mansour and others.

Bruce Hutchinson created the watercolor paintings in Surrealist Texts while in his mid-20s as part of his weekly correspondence with Opal and Ellen Nations. He wrote his letters on small pieces of paper with ink drawings on one side, original watercolors on the other. His artwork has appeared in many small press publications.

And the praise just keeps on coming . . .

“The little book Hotel Ortolan is beautiful, both photos and text, and the photos are a special pleasure because they’re so different from the mass of digital images out there.”  Cordula Güdemann

“A new book by Tom Whalen is an event. A new limited-edition book by Tom Whalen, limited to 125 copies of which over 50 have sold in the first two days, is an event you want to get to before you turn into a bookless pumpkin.” 
—Peter Cherches

“I LOVE Tom Whalen’s and Michel Varisco’s Hotel Ortolan, with photographs perfectly suited to the text.  I savored it on second reading as much as I devoured it quickly on the first.  I think Tom Whalen is a national (technically international) treasure!
Suzanne Burns

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UPDATE (12/29/2013)  – THIS TITLE IS OUT OF PRINT

Your room is waiting . . .

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“The maid who lives in the attic room above me can barely make it down the stairs any longer. She has been in my service for twenty years, so I can hardly dismiss her. But all night I hear the creak of her bedsprings as she tosses about, unable to sleep. The room is too small, her back bent from stooping. Her little mouse feet scutter about the floor nervously. She does not know where to go. I can call on her to do nothing. I imagine her growing younger in sleep, growing younger, until one day footsteps are heard on the attic stairs, and  a small child enters my room and draws the curtain.”

So begins this haunting stay at the Hotel Ortolan. We are drawn in slowly, seduced by the poetic text. We are at turns frightened, amused, disoriented. We move through these rooms, these impossible spaces like captive guests. The hotel itself cannot possibly exist, and yet evidence lies before us in a series of evocative photographs by Michel Varisco.

We invite you to experience this surrealist collaboration.

Your room is waiting…

Hotel Ortolan
Text by Tom Whalen /  photographs by Michel Varisco
Absurdist Texts & Documents – No. 19
Edition of 125 copies.  $12.50

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Grok Gracq

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I discovered the surrealist novels of Julian Gracq many years ago. I encountered an out of print copy of A Dark Stranger at Gotham Book Mart in NYC. Gotham was my home away from home. It specialized in avant-garde literature and carried books you couldn’t find anywhere else: rare chapbooks, pamphlets, and esoteric tomes.

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This hardcover edition of Gracq’s novel was published in 1951 by New Directions. It was one of those rare books with an aura that compels one to possess it. (an experience you don’t find with a digital book.) The cover design by Gertrude Huston  cleverly omitted the title and author’s name, conjuring a faceless stranger.

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image courtesy of 50 Watts

One surrealist oddity—although obviously unintentional—was that the title on the flap (as well as the spine) was printed as The Dark Stranger, while the title page correctly identified it as A Dark Stranger.

An anomaly like that can drive up the value of an edition—especially when there are multiple printings.

One of the pleasures of publishing is providing readers with the potential of experiencing the aura of unusual books. Eccentric art and literature that doesn’t surface on the shelves at Barnes & Noble.