Leonora Carrington (April 6, 1917–May 25, 2011), subject of a Google doodle (above) on the anniversary of her birth, which unfortunately happened to coincide with the Easter Monday holiday, was one of those multitalented figures whose character and life make the cliche “truth is stranger than fiction” a pale shadow of the … ahem … truth. She also has a track record as a novelist as well as artist that many modern imaginative writers would give their eye teeth for.

Almost the prototypical wild child, Carrington rebelled against her wealthy English background from the start, moving to Paris soon after her débutante ball to set up house with the Surrealist painter Max Ernst, who she stayed with until their forced separation in World War 2. Many of her most famous images – surreal, whimsical, and often with a fairy-tale quality that would make them ideal illustrations for her own fantastical stories – date from the pre-war and wartime period, when she was briefly a significant figure in Surrealist circles. Most of her writing, though, such as the 1974 novel The Hearing Trumpet, dates from later in her life, after her move to Mexico in 1942 (by way of a period of incarceration and treatment for a psychotic episode in Spain, courtesy of her parents). And unfortunately, a large proportion of it, such as the story collection The Oval Lady: Surreal Stories (1975) and the mixed volume of tales and autobiography The House of Fear (1988) are either out of print or available only in very expensive and rare editions. A shame, considering how prevalent her artwork has become, and given that she is nowadays an unofficial feminist as well as Surrealist icon, she deserves better.


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