Down Below: by Leonora Carrington, introduction by Marina Warner

Down Below is a re-telling of a descent into madness from one of Surrealist’s most brilliant women artists.

In 1937 Leonora Carrington was an art student in London, she then met the artist Max Ernst and they soon formed a relationship, they cemented this by moving away together to a house in Provence.

In 1940, she was to suffer an enormous blow, Max was arrested and sent to a concentration camp, this was just the beginning as Leonora would suffer a psychotic breakdown. Confined to a mental institution she would undergo some of the cruelest and most sadistic treatments administered by her Doctor.

This book retraces her days as a form of therapy through the medium of writing. She shares her thoughts, feelings, dreams and nightmares. It is told through her own memory and is written in a diary format to give the reader an idea of timeline. As “normal” as this may seem, the entries read almost like a shamanic journey, an out of body experience where Leonora’s visions take her to other places, in particular the Down Below. The book is in some ways rather difficult to read, it tells us of a time in her life that is quite frankly an unbearable and brutal way to cure someone of their madness. A time where brutality reigned, and these monstrous treatments were thought as cures.

This book is a real gem and certainly earns a place in the history of surrealist literature.

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