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

By Enrique Vila-Matas, Anne McLean, Thomas Bunstead

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

An writer (a model of Vila-Matas himself) provides a quick “history” of a mystery society, the Shandies, who're enthusiastic about the concept that of “portable literature.” The society is totally imagined, yet during this rollicking, intellectually playful e-book, its individuals contain writers and artists like Marcel Duchamp, Aleister Crowley, Witold Gombrowicz, Federico García Lorca, guy Ray, and Georgia O’Keefe. The Shandies meet secretly in flats, motels, and cafes everywhere Europe to debate what nice literature particularly 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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Extra info for A Brief History of Portable Literature (New Directions Paperbook)

Sample text

Life isn’t worth the trouble it takes to leave it. . Suicide is very comfortable, too comfortable: I haven’t committed suicide. I wouldn’t want to leave regretting not having taken with me the Statue of Liberty, or love, or the United States. I send my most energetic protest against this absurd wave of suspension-bridge suicides. Youth of New York: choose sumptuous hotels if you want to leave this life. Some hotels are, frankly, rather literary. ) In Europe they’ve known this for a long time and consider suicides elegant only if they happen in places like the Ritz.

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.

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. It was the intervention of the generation of Spanish poets of ’27 that put paid to the portables’ stellar voyage.

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