The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington by Leonora Carrington

What do horses, hyenas, hair full of nocturnal animals, and Happy Corpses have in common? Surrealist artist and painter Leonora Carrington. Her full collection of short stories are fairy tales for adults, reminding each of us that we still have some imagination left.

I was not familiar with Leonora Carrington before this book. Born in 1917 in England, she studied art and lived in France for a number of years with Max Ernst, a surrealist painter himself. He was arrested in 1940 during the war and she moved to Spain and then Portugal, in and out of a sanatorium. She married a bull fighter who helped pave her way to America and, ultimately, Mexico City, where she divorced and remarried, continuing to paint and write.

The full moon shone brightly between the trees, so I was able to see, a few yards in front of me, the origins of a distressing noise. It was two cabbages having a terrible fight. They were tearing each other’s leaves off with such ferocity that soon there was nothing but torn leaves everywhere and no cabbages.

’Never mind’, I told myself, ‘It’s only a nightmare.’ But then I remembered suddenly that I’d never gone to bed that night, and so it couldn’t possibly be a nightmare.
— The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington

She is known for her very bizarre paintings, but it is her stories that shed further insight into the goings-on of her mind. It is a mind where everything is possible, where a girl who doesn't want to go to a ball sends a hyena from the zoo in her place. Where a savage woman mates with a beautiful boar, gives birth to tiny beasts and eats all but one. Where the present cuts the past's throat, and where men who look like wolves are the most handsome. Always there is a horse, and always there is a woman with long hair, but the rest is a grim and fascinating unknown. A world where every animal has a different language, but all can communicate. A world where you suddenly know and speak all the languages too.

No one says it better than Kathryn David, who introduces this new collection, "The catch is that in a fairy tale, you'd know it's not a real hyena, whereas in Leonora Carrington's stories the hyenas are always real."