new translation of 1940s work reflecting fears and trauma of WWII era
THE PASSIVE VAMPIRE by Gherasim Luca; translated from the French by Krzysztof Fijalkowski. Twisted Spoon Press, Czech Republic, www.twistedspoon.com; distributed in U.S. by SCB Distributors, www.scbdistributors. 2009 (new translation of 1945 book). 140 pages. $17.50 trade paper, ISBN 978-80-86264-31-8. illustrations, notes.
First published in 1945, Luca's book reflects all of the rampant, extremist fears and associated mental states in the pre-World War II and the War years in Europe. The style of the book is labeled surrealistic; but it is also existential despite its lack of elements such as setting and characterization with its implications of biography and interaction with one's surroundings. Although the book is patently dated as far as the historical and social circumstances it grew out of and by its heavily psychologistic style, a work with its vibrancy and display of aspects of human nature is never passe or irrelevant. One sees in the book, for instance, sources of the science fiction and horror literature and movies so popular today.
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. With their relative simplicity, the objects in the illustrations seem more personal than typical surrealist art, like the art of Joseph Cornell. In combining text and illustrations, Luca's book comes within a relatively small category of art and is also marked as something of a rudiment or prototype of the comic or illustrated novel which has come onto the scene in recent years.
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.