The Arthritic Grasshopper: Collected Stories, 1934–1944

The Arthritic Grasshopper: Collected Stories, 1934–1944

Gisèle Prassinos

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Translated by Henry Vale and Bonnie Ruberg, with an introduction by Bonnie Ruberg / Illustrations by Allan Kausch / April 2017 / 6 x 9, 240 pp. / 978-1-939663-22-1

First discovered, celebrated, and published at the age of fourteen by the Surrealists (who declared her to be the “new Alice”), Gisèle Prassinos quickly established herself in the literary world as a fount of automatic tales woven through with transgressive humor, coy menace, and a pervading sense of threatened feminine identity within a hostile world. “Gisèle Prassinos’s tone is unique,” claimed André Breton, “all the poets are jealous of it. Swift lowers his eyes, Sade shuts his candy box.” The Arthritic Grasshopper: Collected Stories, 1934–1944 gathers together an assortment of anxious dream tales drawn from literary journals and plaquettes, introduced and illustrated by such admirers as Paul Éluard, Man Ray, and Hans Bellmer. These 72 stories include such longer, novella-length narratives as “Sondue,” “The Executioner,” and “The Dream.”

“She offers all comers a pure moment in exchange for centuries of boredom.”—Paul Éluard

Gisèle Prassinos (1920–2015) was born in Istanbul of a Greek father and an Italian mother. At the age of thirteen she began to compose short absurdist vignettes in a fit of boredom, filling up pages with tales of sarcastic stains, arrogant hair, liquid frogs, and blue spiders. Encouraged by her brother, who introduced her and her experiments in automatic writing to his Surrealist colleagues, she immediately found herself welcomed into the Parisian avant-garde community and her stories were published in all the significant literary journals of the time. Her first collection was published in 1935, with a preface by Paul Éluard and a frontispiece portrait by Man Ray. With World War II, Prassinos stopped publishing and began to distance herself from the Surrealists and the limitations imposed by her writing being so closely bound to the idea of automatism in its purest, “childhood” form. Writing nothing from 1944 to 1954, she then returned to literature with a series of novels and stories that, if still imbued with a Surrealist sensibility, pointed to a new direction in her writing.


“Prassinos’s anti-fables offer ways of reading a mind that doesn’t know what it knows, of singing along with the free faceless astonishing voice. Highly recommended.”
—Edwin Turner, Biblioklept

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