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Book details:
 
The Passive Vampire

[ excerpt ]

writing from Romania

series: image to word


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also by the author:
Inventor of Love
Self-Shadowing-Prey


  the passive vampire

by Ghérasim Luca

translated and introduced by Krzysztof Fijalkowski


Originally published in 1945 by Les Éditions de l'Oubli in Bucharest, The Passive Vampire caught the attention of the French Surrealists when an excerpt appeared in 1947 alongside texts by Jabès and Michaux in Georges Henein's magazine La part du sable. Luca, whose work was admired by Gilles Deleuze, attempts here to transmit the "shudder" evoked by some Surrealist texts, such as André Breton's Nadja and Mad Love, probing with acerbic humor the fragile boundary between "objective chance" and delirium.

Impossible to define, The Passive Vampire is a mixture of theoretical treatise and breathless poetic prose, personal confession and scientific investigation — it is 18 photographs of "objectively offered objects," a category created by Luca to occupy the space opened up by Breton. At times taking shape as assemblages, these objects are meant to capture chance in its dynamic and dramatic forms by externalizing the ambivalence of our drives and bringing to light the nearly continual equivalence between our love-hate tendencies and the world of things.

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Praise:

Ghérasim Luca is a great poet, among the greatest: he invented a prodigious stammering, his own.

— Gilles Deleuze, Dialogues

It is an eminently entertaining mix of poetic prose, autobiography, theoretical reflection, documentary narrative, and deliciously delirious interpretation; it is also one of Luca’s most accessible books.

— Michael Leong, Hyperallergic

What Luca proposes is an erotics of objects, and lest the reader proceed unaware of what kind of object he is writing about, he reproduce a number of these sculptures or assemblages as "figures" in his text. It will come as no surprise that many of the objects shown in photographs deal with the bodies of dolls and have blatent sexual and violent overtones.

Vertigo

Much of The Passive Vampire is, indeed, a 'delirium of interpretation'. There is certainly some appeal to it — here is a mind thinking and feeling out of most of the conventional boxes — but also only within limits. Still, at only a hundred-odd pages, it's a worthwhile surreal ride.

Complete Review

The Passive Vampire is excellently translated and introduced by Krzyzstof Fijalkowski and is what broadsheets would call "essential reading." It is undoubtedly a "classic" of the surrealist tradition while at the same time the kind of text that puts into question the very notions of classic and tradition. Offer yourself to it.

Phosphor (read full review here)

Invoking "the god of prison," Luca refers to his short [prison] sentence for offending morality, the punishment for sending editions of his erotic poetry to officials of the Romanian government in 1933. That auto-destruction, typical of Luca, was also the essence of the Surrealist project in its Eastern iteration. The artful fracturing of bourgeois French reality became, in a much more politically volatile and sexually repressive milieu, the frantic Othering of the creative self. In Bucharest, especially after the war, there was nothing else left to corrupt.

The Forward

The book ... is chimerical and delirious yet remarkably concrete in its lewdness. Blending personal confession, prose poetry, meditation, verbal games, catalogues, and hymns to desire, this hybrid book is a Surrealist carnival that taps satanic and psychic rituals. Bawdy and bizarre, it also evokes the era's dark history, including anti-Semitic pogroms.

— Irene Gammel, Bookforum

The Passive Vampire is not what you think. It's not a book about vampires. It's not a book about passivity. It's not science fiction and it's not a horror story. What it is is challenging, semi-autobiographical, surrealist dissertation, erotic in a removed, intellectual George Bataille sort of way, and a book with a lot to offer but only to those who are open to understanding it.

Salonica

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.

— Gwen Dawson, Literary License

There is a vogue/vague for this great Romanian-French surrealist poet just now, and we advise our readers to get on it. Luca lived in poverty in Paris since the 1950s and committed suicide by jumping into the Seine at the same spot as Paul Celan, but not before revolutionizing poetry in Romanian, giving surrealism and Andre Breton new hope for relevance, and becoming an important element in the philosophical machine constructed by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in "Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia." I met Luca in New York in the mid 1980s when he was already in his seventies, and we stayed up all night after his reading, ending up in an animated discussion between four and six a.m. at the Plaza entrance of Central Park. At one point, at 5:20 AM he leapt up on a sculpture and I saw him as a bull-demon as his shaved head with the pointed devil-ears appeared in the muscular dawn above a bronze grotesque ... "The Passive Vampire" is a poetic memoir that is also a surrealist living guide and a very sophisticated essay on the connections between objects and human feelings.

— Andrei Codrescu

The Passive Vampire, also from 1945, but written in 1941, is a surrealist work, but one that goes beyond mere dadaist playfulness and becomes much darker and more disturbing. There is a whiff of sulphur from its pages, and when he writes "the medieval pyres are still burning" you note the date and reflect that perhaps "surrealism" is not quite the mot juste.

— Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

The Passive Vampire explores our relation to the material world, especially objects, constantly subverting our preconceived ideas about what we see and think. The influence of the French surrealists, particularly Andre Breton's Mad Love and Nadja, is easily felt throughout. Luca's poetic, stream-of-consciousness prose reminded me of why I loved reading the French surrealists so much ...

— Heidi Broadhead, Omnivoracious

On the surface, [the book] deals with the creation and exchange of (highly personal) surrealist objects, illustrated throughout with enigmatic photographs, presented as pictorial evidence in such a way as to place the book in a lineage stemming from André Breton's Nadja. In places it possesses a distinct lyrical quality, most likely inspired by Lautréamont, but rather than taking a delirious plunge into the imagination's depths through any purple prose, Luca writes with a disarming honesty and directness in describing and interpreting events. [...] There is no doubt that The Passive Vampire should take its place amongst the essential "classics" of surrealism's history, but, moreover, it provides a valuable stimulus for any current investigations into the workings of chance and its objects, of dream and desire. As the translator, Krzysztof Fijalkowski writes in his excellent introduction, this work is important "as a fixed marker for the questions asked today by those wishing to situate themselves in the continuing stream of a critical surrealist thought."

— Kenneth Cox, Mute Magazine

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. [...] 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.

— Henry Berry (full review here)

Ghérasim Luca has liberated the "language of birds," an alchemical diction that reveals phantasms, invokes phantoms, and mimes the flow of dreams and the flux of the unconscious.

Le Matin

We're confronted here with a trial by reading which at the same time is a trial by life. As uncommon as [Henri] Michaux's texts, they are meant for us to risk ourselves.

— Emmanuel Laugier, Le Matricule des Anges

A contemporary reading of [The Passive Vampire], illustrated by 18 photographs of Objects Objectively Offered, allows one to experience the frisson of a bygone era. It is truly a work of mad love, sadomutilation, "irreal beauty," and André Breton's objective chance and omnipresent desire. In Luca's kabbalistic reflections, as in his account of his organized deliriums, there is a certain syncopated, fitful flow that never ceases to return to his characteristic passion for interpretation.

Les Inrockuptibles

To hear and to see Ghérasim Luca read is like rediscovering the primordial power of poetry, its prophetic force and subversive effect.

Le Monde

Luca's grim, lewd, death-haunted writings puzzle, disgust, and induce laughter; ... [his] poems and prose are as playful and illuminating as they are bizarre and disturbing.

— John Taylor, "Killer Puns"

   

ISBN 978-80-86264-31-8
140 pp.
17 x 20 cm
softcover with flaps
18 b/w illustrations
art : literature : surrealism


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