NYRB: Leonora Carrington's "The Hearing Trumpet," with Kathryn Davis, Merve Emre, Chloe Aridjis, & Danielle Dutton

January 14, 2021, 5:30 PM

We're celebrating the NYRB Classics reissue of Leonora Carrington's The Hearing Trumpet with readings and discussion of works across Carrington's ouevre, featuring authors Kathryn Davis, Merve Emre, Chloe Aridjis, and Danielle Dutton. This program is our of our ongoing series with NYRB Classics and will take place on Zoom. Register here:

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Leonora Carrington, painter, playwright, and novelist, was a surrealist trickster par excellence, and The Hearing Trumpet is the witty, celebratory key to her anarchic and allusive body of work. The novel begins in the bourgeois comfort of a residential corner of a Mexican city and ends with a man-made apocalypse that promises to usher in the earth’s rebirth. In between we are swept off to a most curious old-age home run by a self-improvement cult and drawn several centuries back in time with a cross-dressing Abbess who is on a quest to restore the Holy Grail to its rightful owner, the Goddess Venus. Guiding us is one of the most unexpected heroines in twentieth-century literature, a nonagenarian vegetarian named Marian Leatherby, who, as Olga Tokarczuk writes in her afterword, is “hard of hearing” but “full of life.”

The Hearing Trumpet . . . reads on its parodic surface like an Agatha Christie domestic mystery, but one melted, dissolved by extreme heat into something unthinkably other, and reconstructed as the casebook of an alchemist. . . . It asks its readers to allow the dark, allow the wild and rethink how power works. It is a work of massive optimism. . . . One of the most original, joyful, satisfying, and quietly visionary novels of the twentieth century.
—Ali Smith

The Hearing Trumpet is so inspiring! Free-flowing, spiky imagination. I love its freedom, its humour and how it invents its own laws.
—Björk, The Guardian

Reading The Hearing Trumpet liberates us from the miserable reality of our days.
—Luis Buñuel

Leonora Carrington (1917–2011) was born in Lancashire, England, to an industrialist father and an Irish mother. She was raised on fantastical folk tales told to her by her Irish nanny at her family’s estate, Crookhey Hall. Carrington would be expelled from two convent schools before enrolling in art school in Florence. In 1937, a year after her mother gave her a book on surrealist art featuring Max Ernst’s work, she met the artist at a party. Not long after, Carrington and the then-married Ernst settled in the south of France, where Carrington completed her first major painting, The Inn of the Dawn Horse (Self-Portrait), in 1939. In the wake of Ernst’s imprisonment by the Nazis, Carrington fled to Spain, where she suffered a nervous breakdown and was committed to a mental hospital in Madrid. She eventually escaped to the Mexican embassy in Lisbon and settled first in New York and later in Mexico, where she married the photographer Imre Weisz and had two sons. Carrington spent the rest of her life in Mexico City, moving in a circle of like-minded artists that included Remedios Varo and Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Kathryn Davis is the author of eight novels, the most recent of which are The Silk Road (2019), and Duplex (2013); her memoir, Aurelia, Aurélia, is forthcoming from Graywolf. She has received a Kafka Prize for fiction by an American woman, both the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award and the Katherine Anne Porter Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and in 2006 the Lannan Foundation Literary Award. She is the senior fiction writer on the faculty of The Writing Program at Washington University.

Merve Emre is Associate Professor of English at the University of Oxford. She is the author and editor of several books, most recently The Annotated Mrs. Dalloway, and a regular contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books.

Chloe Aridjis is the author of three novels, Book of Clouds, which won the Prix du Premier Roman Etranger in France, Asunder, set in London's National Gallery, and Sea Monsters, recently awarded the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Chloe has written for various art journals and was co-curator of the Leonora Carrington exhibition at Tate Liverpool. She starred in Josh Appignanesi’s psychodrama “Female Human Animal” (inspired by the exhibition) and received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2014. Chloe is a member of XR Writers Rebel, a group of writers who focus on addressing the climate emergency and species extinction. A collection of her essays and short fiction, Dialogue with a Somnambulist: Essays and Stories, will come out in 2021. 

Danielle Dutton's most recent book is the novel Margaret the First. Her writing has also appeared in The Paris ReviewThe White ReviewGuernicaConjunctionsHarper'sBOMB, etc. She is a professor at Washington University in St. Louis and is co-founder and editor of the feminist press Dorothy, a publishing project.