5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
The Passive Vampire by Ghérasim Luca was originally published in French in 1945 by Les Éditions de l'Oubli in Bucharest. Thanks to Twisted Spoon Press and translator Krzysztof Fijalkowski, this important work of surrealist literature is now available in English in a beautifully designed edition, including 18 full-page photographs of Luca's Objectively Offered Objects (surrealist sculptures comprising strange combinations of symbolic objects).
In Fijalkowski's informative introduction, he explains that the Romanian Surrealist Group, which existed from 1940 until 1947 and of which Luca was a key member, stood for "a reinvention of the surrealist imagination" through:
"a critical approach to dreams, the eroticisation of the proletariat, the poetic appropriation of quantum physics, and the perpetual re-evaluation of surrealism through the negation of negation."
The Passive Vampire falls squarely within these professed values and is divided into two halves: The Objectively Offered Object and The Passive Vampire. In the first half of the book, Luca explores how his gift of an object transforms his relationship with the recipient:
"When offering an object to someone, external causality responds more rapidly to internal necessities. Erotic relations between myself and other individuals are more quickly established though the mediation of the object."
In the case of an object Luca intended to offer to André Breton, the object
"began to murmur a black-magical language between myself and Breton, one that was very close to dream and to primordial language. This secret and mysterious communication lasted uninterrupted for several days."
In creating his objects, Luca chose his materials based on their inner meanings and their harmony with subconscious emotions. The actual substance of his materials was unimportant: "In the world of dreams where I choose to operate, celluloid is flesh and paper is water."
The second half of the book is a poetic evocation of Luca's surrealist philosophies and imaginative visions. The imagery in this section is dark, brooding, and often very strange:
"I close my eyes, as active as a vampire, I open them within myself, as passive as a vampire, and between the blood that arrives, the blood that leaves, and the blood already inside me there occurs an exchange of images like an engagement of daggers."
In this half of the book, Luca reveals his pessimistic view of humanity:
"It is dawning on [the people] at last that they have long since ceased to live, that the corpses they show to the outside world, having taken the form of the useful, the beautiful, and the goo, have transformed the magnificent rotation of the Earth around the Sun into the funereal procession of a slowly decaying hearse as it approaches the ruins of a cemetery."
The Passive Vampire ends with a love story, but it's a gloomy love story that only "darkened the darkness" for Luca. Though challenging to decipher, this segment of the book is beautifully and powerfully written.
The Passive Vampire had an original print run of only 460 copies, and, until its recent reissue, Fijalkowski explains it had become "something of a lost legend within surrealist literature, rarely referred to and almost never seen other than in jealously guarded private libraries." We are lucky to have access to this "lost legend" in English, which will surely become a rediscovered classic and a "must read" for anyone interested in surrealism.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
First published in 1945, Luca's book reflects all of the rampant, extremist fears and associated mental states in the pre-World War II and the War years in Europe. The style of the book is labeled surrealistic; but it is also existential despite its lack of elements such as setting and characterization with its implications of biography and interaction with one's surroundings. Although the book is patently dated as far as the historical and social circumstances it grew out of and by its heavily psychologistic style, a work with its vibrancy and display of aspects of human nature is never passe or irrelevant. One sees in the book, for instance, sources of the science fiction and horror literature and movies so popular today.
Besides its portrayals of charged, uncontrolled emotional states, Luca's book is of interest for its illustrations. These are surrealist with their mixed elements and cryptic presence. They are simpler though than the highly-wrought writing and than most surrealist art--as if the strange archetypes of Luca's psychology and imagination. With their relative simplicity, the objects in the illustrations seem more personal than typical surrealist art, like the art of Joseph Cornell. In combining text and illustrations, Luca's book comes within a relatively small category of art and is also marked as something of a rudiment or prototype of the comic or illustrated novel which has come onto the scene in recent years.
The Passive Vampire is noteworthy as outstanding representative literature of a particular period, and also as a work offering a rare, unusual, literary, artistic experience.
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I'd be lying if I told you I understood this book. Being a literal type, I read and re-read each of the early paragraphs trying to hammer out some coherent, rational meaning. Failing at that, I then just went with the flow and allowed the intense and powerful use of words to cascade by. I found myself captivated by Luca's language. It is extremely evocative, and the fact that I never really understood exactly what he was referring to only added to the mysticism of it all. The writing has a sinister, magical, poetical quality to it that I ended up finding to be quite elegant and seductive. This is somewhat like reading the thoughts of a demented psychotic genius and having the uneasy realization that he has some valid understanding of the world that escapes the rest of us.
I've survived Faulkner and Joyce, and this was relatively comfortable and rewarding in comparison. This only took me a few hours to read, so it won't be like you're investing a month in some epic.
My thanks to the two previous reviewers who gave me a context for this which I hadn't established by my own reading or by my familiarity with surrealism. I particulary agree with the sentiment that this is a potentially seminal work for writers (and perhaps film-makers) of horror. There is profound dark ambience here, erotic and bizarre, and I believe it could be readily expounded upon in other more accessible works.
This partiuclar edition (Twisted Spoon Press, 2008) is beautiful and I'm planting mine in a plastic storage sleeve because I can see some artsy type really desiring a copy of this in 20 years when it is long out of print. The several photographs of seemingly illogical little sculptures are also weirdly haunting and they alone will send shivers up your spine. They will make the imagery in your Dali coffee table book seem quite vanilla by comparison.
I was sorry to hear about the sad death of Mr. Luca, but his tragic ending by suicide strangely seemed to correspond to the verbal imagery of his book, adding only further intrigue to his legacy.