The Leg of Lamb
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From the publisher
Translated by Marc Lowenthal
A foundational classic of Surrealist literature, The Leg of Lamb: Its Life and Works brings together the arch-Surrealist Benjamin Péret’s short prose: a smorgasbord of automatic writing and fantastical narratives that play on a medley of registers, employing everything from the cinematic antics of Buster Keaton and slapstick animation to the storytelling devices of detective novels, alchemical operations, and mythology. The Leg of Lamb consists of twenty-four delirious narratives, including the novella-length works … And the Breasts Were Dying… and There Was a Little Bakeress…. Péret’s adult fairy tales bear equal allegiance to Lewis Carroll and the Marquis de Sade, and present one of the clearest examples of Surrealist humor, in which the boundaries between character and object blur, and where a coat rack, artichoke, or a pile of manure is just as likely as Napoléon, El Cid, or Pope Pius VII to take on the role of hero and adventurer.
Péret himself edited this collection toward the end of his life. Originally published in French in 1957, almost all of the stories in this collection had been written in the 1920s, half of them even preceding André Breton’s Manifesto of Surrealism. The Leg of Lamb offers not just a highpoint of Surrealist automatic writing, but a key chapter in the genesis of the Surrealist movement. Here, Péret’s unfettered imagination does not so much represent Surrealism as constitute it, and describes a world defined by childlike delight and aggression—a world in which metamorphosis is endless and death is dream.