By Leonora Carrington
Why this book?
This slender, 70-page memoir of a time in which both one woman and the world went mad is a beautifully-rendered portrait of psychosis. Written decades after the episode, Down Below describes the British-Mexican surrealist painter Leonora Carrington’s psychotic break in 1940, the circumstances of which were themselves aptly surreal. As a 19-year-old art student in London, she had fallen in love with the celebrated (and married) artist Max Ernst, and run scandalously away with him to a farmhouse in Provence. After Germany invaded France, the Jewish Ernst was arrested, leaving Carrington so intensely abandoned and shocked by unfolding history that she vomited repeatedly.
She began to unravel as she wandered her way out of France, eventually entering Madrid, which she perceived “as the world’s stomach, and that I had been chosen for the task of restoring this digestive organ to health. I believed that all anguish had accumulated in me and would dissolve in the end.” Her time enduring brutal treatment in a Spanish asylum and her subsequent escape to Mexico where her career flourished speaks to her tremendous resilience.
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