Keywords: surrealism, life writing, phantasmagoria.
This article focuses on the phantasmagorical vision that can be observed in Leonora
Carrington’s memoir Down Below, a work which mingles autobiography
with some elements of fiction to tell about the author’s experience of mental
disorder during World War II. The work is disseminated with hermetic messages
animated by animal transfigurations of human beings and symbolic descriptions
of space which are analysed here with the aim to restore literary value to the
conscious phantasmagorical representation of this life experience. The memoir
is here considered as an admirable surrealist narration of the young artist’s resistance
towards family and social constraints. The rich visual language used by the
author displays her attempt to resist homologation to bourgeois standards and
to respect her artistic talents. The symbolism of which Carrington makes use can
be traced back to the Surrealist circle but it is also regarded as being the result
of deep cultural stratifications from the Irish folklore she was fascinated by as a
child to ancient alchemy connected to her friendship with Pierre Mabille.