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A stunning work of memoir and an unforgettable depiction of the brilliance and madness by one of Surrealism's most compelling figures
Carrington, Leonora ; Warner, Marina
New York Review of Books
In 1937 Leonora Carrington--later to become one of the twentieth century's great painters of the weird, the alarming, and the wild--was a nineteen-year-old art student in London, beautiful and unapologetically rebellious. At a dinner party, she met the artist Max Ernst. The two fell in love and soon departed to live and paint together in a farmhouse in Provence.
In 1940, the invading German army arrested Ernst and sent him to a concentration camp. Carrington suffered a psychotic break. She wept for hours. Her stomach became "the mirror
of the earth"--of all worlds in a hostile universe--and she tried to purify the evil by compulsively vomiting. As the Germans neared the south of France, a friend persuaded Carrington to flee to Spain. Facing the approach "of robots, of thoughtless, fleshless beings," she packed a suitcase that bore on a brass plate the word Revelation
This was only the beginning of a journey into madness that was to end with Carrington confined in a mental institution, overwhelmed not only by her own terrible imaginings but by her doctor's sadistic course of treatment. In Down Below
she describes her ordeal--in which the agonizing and the marvelous were equally combined--with a startling, almost impersonal precision and without a trace of self-pity. Like Daniel Paul Schreber's Memoirs of My Nervous Illness
, Down Below
brings the hallucinatory logic of madness home.
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