Over at Weird Fiction Review, Edward Gauvin profiles French author André Pieyre de Mandiargues:
In case you missed it over the holidays, Words Without Borders, the online magazine of international literature, ran an issue whose theme was “The Fantastic” for the final month of 2011, featuring work from Slovenia, Japan, Turkey, Malta, India (Urdu), Spain, China, and France. Highlights include a Scottish castle haunted by the Bosnian conflict, a bus with its own itinerary, and a cookbook for sprites. In other stories, a dreamy child creates her own universe, and a man witnesses his own death. If you haven’t visited yet, you should check it out!
My contribution to that December issue was André Pieyre de Mandiargues’ story“The Red Loaf”. It’s honestly one of the more difficult translations I’ve done, due largely to the baroque prose style for which Mandiargues is justly celebrated. Over at my blog, I briefly recount the story’s publication history. The following sketch is meant as a brief introduction to the life and work of one of France’s great midcentury fabulists, working in the vein of a Surrealism-tinged fantastic.
Who was André Pieyre de Mandiargues? Born in Paris in 1909, he lost his father to the First World War. His childhood memories of his mother were of a widow in black. A stammer crippled his social development. Close friends from an early age with Henri Cartier-Bresson, the pair explored first the pleasure houses of Pigalle and then all of Europe, on road trips where the would-be painter Bresson converted to the religion of the lens. (Bresson often made his friend backtrack for the perfect vantage, glimpsed in passing, which Bresson would then disdain.) Cartier-Bresson, with his penchant for geometry, preferred Florence, but Venice was the love of Mandiargues the dandy (who threatened to throw his friend’s camera into the canal). Later, he drove alone from Paris to Constantinople in a Buick with a revolver in the glove compartment. One thinks of Serge Gainsbourg’s “Ford Mustang”, whose lyrics, a litany of the car’s contents, include “a Browning” and “a collection of Edgar Poe.” On his way back, he met the twenty year old Leonora Carrington, who had just left England to move in with Max Ernst. – continue reading.