Leonora Carrington is Having A Moment

2017 marks the centenary year of the birth of Leonora Carrington and has spawned a veritable rash of new titles about her and republication of her fiction.  We are big fans of Carrington's fantastical fictions and her equally fantastical life story and couldn't be more delighted. It would be ususal to find The Yellow Wallpaper on our the shelves (until just now the only title of hers easily available for our stock) and to have had Elena Poniatowska's fictionalised account of her friend's extraordiary life pressed upon you as a recommended read. A small aside - Leonora is often wrongly assumed to be the daughter of British painter Dora Carrington who hung out with the Bloomsbury set but they are, most emphatically, not related.

Marina Warner has written a superb introductory essay in The Guardian on Carrington as a response to new feminist publisher Silver Press releasing an edition of Carrington's stories The Debutante and Other Stories. Btw the title might appear familiar as The Debutante was included in Angela Carter's anthology Wayward Girls and Wicked Women (1986).  Warner gives a great sense of Carrington's own sense of her art - Carrington always perceived a connection between traditional women's work and art, and disliked grandiose male asssertions of heroic status. "Painting is like making strawberry jam, really carefully and well," she once told me. She valued what she called "dailiness": the common cabbage is her rosa mystica.

I look forward to reading Joanna Moorhead's The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington.  It is not a run-of-the-mill biography but an account (though not fictionalised like Poniatowska's) of the author's friendship with Carrington. In fact they are related. Leonora is her father's cousin and Moorhead was welcomed into Carrington's Mexican home as a member of the family. Warner refers to Frida Kahlo and Leonora as "friends" but this is not the impression I had from Poniatowska's Leonora and in  Paul Laity's review of Moorhead's book he quotes from it that Kahlo called Leonora and her associates "those European bitches". I can't wait!

There is more to look forward to including two titles from the NYRB. Down Below - an account of Carrington's escape from France in 1940 away from the invading German army into Spain and her subsequent breakdown and incarceration in a mental institution where she was subjected to the most awful sadistic treatments. It's a miracle she survived. Then there is The Milk of Dreams - stories she illustrated and wrote to entertain her own children which is sure to be strange and charming. 

More here from Lorna Scott Fox in the TLS.

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Leonora by Elena Poniatowska, Profile, March 2015 £12.99

The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington by Joanna Moorhead, Little Brown, April 2017 £20

The Debutante and Other Stories, Leonora Carrington, Silver Press, April 2017 £9.99