Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
Pages: 96
Publication Date: April 4, 2017

Down Below

by Leonora Carrington, introduction by Marina Warner

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Leonora Carrington is perhaps the most enchanting of the women Surrealists. The daughter of Anglo-Irish privilege, she broke free of her manor-house upbringing and fled, first to art school, and then to the Continent. Though she is best known as a painter of the gothic fantastic, with a cult following and one-woman shows at museums around the world, her writing is no less striking. Down Below describes the events of 1940, when, after her longtime lover, artist Max Ernst, was sent to a concentration camp, Carrington was “led across the border of Knowledge” and imprisoned in a sanatorium for the insane. This powerful testament, reminiscent of Carrington’s great novel The Hearing Trumpet, ranks with the work of Sylvia Plath and Janet Frame in its raw evocation of madness.

by Leonora Carrington, introduction by Marina Warner


Down Below is not only a radical reworking of the Surrealist narrative of female madness: it is a sophisticated experiment with reason, subjectivity and the narrative voice, in which Carrington is able to speak clearly of madness from the outside, to speak clearly of what is within it, of its ins and outs, without committing wholly to memoir or to art.
—Joanna Walsh

Her stories are vivid, funny and surprisingly fresh...[they] combine satire with surrealist situations to deftly mock the pomposity of organized religion, sexual repression or the endless forms of bureaucratic hypocrisy and ineptitude... She controls her imagery, amuses us with her tweaking of the bourgeoisie and moves us with her dazzling dreamscapes, all the while firmly maintaining her slightly bemused sang-froid.
—Richard Burgin, The New York Times

While other Surrealists played at madness, she was intimate with it.
—Peter Campbell, London Review of Books