Schwelende Glut. - André Pieyre de Mandiargues, Ernst Sander

* Schwelende Glut/Feu de braise/Glowing Embers
* Trüber Spiegel/Miroir morne/Clouded Mirror
* Die Steinhetären/Les Pierreuses/The Stone Whores
* Rodogune
* Der Akt zwischen den Särgen/Le Nu parmi les cercueils/The Nude Among the Coffins
* Der Diamant/Le Diamant/The Diamond
* Kindisches Treiben/L’Enfantillage/Childhood Dreams

The back cover of this book says that these seven stories belong to the literary movement of Surrealism. I can see that (especially in the first two stories), although I’m more familiar with that current in visual arts and film. The choice of the Max Ernst painting on the cover is quite appropriate. However, there is also a lot of similarity to the fantastic literature of the 19th century, from Romanticism to Decadence to Expressionism. “Les Pierreuses” is the most traditional; how many 19th century stories involved the survival of dangerously erotic beings from Pagan times, which reappear unexpectedly to destroy a modern man? The beings in question, however, are certainly among the oddest of their sort. Even the frequent use of mirror images, and the preoccupation with half-dreaming states, is not entirely new, although particularly prominent in Surrealism. Another traditional factor, for a French writer, is the use of exoticising settings, Italy, Mexico, and other points southward, and even more exoticised people – the superstitious Sardinians in “Rodogune”, the Jews in “The Diamond”, the bizarre Venetians in “Clouded Mirror”, the poor, dark-skinned Mexicans in “The Nude Among the Coffins”, etc. etc.

Aside from the entertaining game of discovering these literary connections, I’ve been simply failing to find anything interesting and appealing about these “erotic, surrealistic” stories. What’s most disturbing is that the author’s idea of eroticism invariably involves violence against women. There are a great number of rapes and other abuses between the covers of this slender book. I’d had the idea before that various surrealists found female sexuality somewhat disgusting (like the narrator of “Clouded Mirror” when his lover suddenly reminds him of a wet water animal, and he drives her away from him). That’s the case with “Rodogune”, in which an independent, beautiful woman, who has no man, is thought of as sexually bestial, as animalistic, and is punished. The most blatantly repellent story, though, is “The Nude Among the Coffins”. At the beginning, the author spends at least two pages describing the naked woman, judging and evaluating her part by part (excellent breasts, described in detail; legs too short, ankles too thick). Why is she naked? Turns out she was raped by a man who forced her to take off her clothes in a strip tease, saying that she was appearing on the stage for an audience (he thought of it as just him, but really it’s the reader too). So, first Mariana Guajaco was mistreated by her lover, who handled her carelessly, kicked her, and then drove her away with angry indifference; then she was raped; then the protagonist/author/reader got her to tell her story while leering at her, thus abusing her for the third time.

Well, enough; no more time spent on this book.