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A Brief History of Portable Literature (New Directions - download pdf or read online

By Enrique Vila-Matas, Anne McLean, Thomas Bunstead

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

An writer (a model of Vila-Matas himself) offers a brief “history” of a mystery society, the Shandies, who're captivated with the idea that of “portable literature.” The society is totally imagined, yet during this rollicking, intellectually playful publication, 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, motels, and cafes in all places Europe to debate what nice literature particularly is: short, now not 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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Extra resources for A Brief History of Portable Literature (New Directions Paperbook)

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The waiter: black Virgil. Snow of yore swirled over the New York lodge: marvelous Georgia O’Keeffe, Pola Negri, Skip Canell, and Stephan Zenith. Spain, or Juan Gris, and Rita Malú, recently hitched in Havana. Prince Mdivani in the mist and Gustav Meyrink in the Bohemian cut crystal. Savinio’s veils in the Eternal City, and Tristan Tzara with poisoned bear honey in Zurich. Berta Bocado or her silk needle. Walter Benjamin and/or the internal vertigo of Gombrowicz, and the rainbow of the piano-playing backsides of the irate neighbors.

As childish as the perspective of Kafka who, as is well known, engaged in a struggle to the death to enter into paternal society, but would only have done so on the condition he could carry on being the irresponsible child he was. The portable writers always behaved like irresponsible children. From the outset, they established staying single as an essential requirement for entering into the Shandy secret society or, at least, acting as though one were. That is, functioning in the manner of a “bachelor machine” in the sense Marcel Duchamp intended soon after learning—through Edgar Varèse no less—of Andrei Bely’s nervous breakdown: “At that moment, I don’t know why, I ceased listening to Varèse and began to think one shouldn’t weigh life down excessively, with too many tasks, with what we call a wife, children, a house in the country, a car, etc.

It’s hard—practically impossible—to know. Most likely there isn’t any link at all, and the image of a celibate person (impossible, gratuitous, outrageous) simply occurred to Duchamp all of a sudden, unaccompanied by any explicable memory or conscious association. That’s to say, a portable artist, or what amounts to the same thing, someone easy to carry around, wherever one goes. Whatever happened, the one clear thing is that Varèse’s fall, Bely’s breakdown, and the unexpected emergence of a celibate, gratuitous, outrageous artist in Duchamp’s field of vision were the pillars on which the Shandy secret society was based.

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A Brief History of Portable Literature (New Directions Paperbook) by Enrique Vila-Matas, Anne McLean, Thomas Bunstead


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