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By Enrique Vila-Matas, Anne McLean, Thomas Bunstead

A reader’s fictional travel of the artwork and lives of a few of the nice 20th-century Surrealists

An writer (a model of Vila-Matas himself) provides a brief “history” of a mystery society, the Shandies, who're enthusiastic about the concept that of “portable literature.” The society is fullyyt imagined, yet during this rollicking, intellectually playful booklet, 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 residences, lodges, and cafes in all places Europe to debate what nice literature relatively is: short, no longer too severe, 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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Additional info for A Brief History of Portable Literature (New Directions Paperbook)

Sample text

Dazzled by that death by baroque silver teapot, they flung themselves from suspension bridges, but not before writing droll letters to judges outlining the many reasons for giving up this life. One of these suicidal youths, the brother of the sculptor Gaudier-Brezska, was thoughtful enough to dedicate the following admirable poem to his judge: “Tomorrow, the end. / The end, tomorrow. / Until tomorrow, the end. / The end, tomorrow. ” The wave of suicides was so huge that Skip Canell, a close friend of Johnson’s, asked Rigaut—since he was a recognized authority on the subject of suicides—to publish without delay a call to young people, urging them to desist from such suicidal inclinations.

He’d taken his first steps toward this definitive gesture in Port Actif. Without telling anyone, he walked off into the jungle and disappeared into a dark night of large trees. There, surrounded by the lush silence of the leaves, he invented the pretext of being hopelessly in love with Georgia O’Keeffe, as this would make suicide all the more tempting. He was sure his beloved would reject him outright, which, as it turned out, was quite right. But, as I’ve said, this didn’t prevent him from taking two more years to commit suicide.

Walter Benjamin and/or the internal vertigo of Gombrowicz, and the rainbow of the piano-playing backsides of the irate neighbors. ” Actually it was Picabia who wasn’t there, and who, paradoxically, has written most about the Viennese party. Though he doesn’t give any of the gathering’s names, he says they were exactly twenty-seven in number, and then he informs us that twenty-seven was the Shandy number par excellence: “Stephan Zenith turned twenty-seven that March 27th in Vienna. And twenty-seven is also the number of years Rita Malú had been confined in a remote Somalian asylum.

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