For our first session of the Reading Club 2014 we counted on the presence of Emili Manzano with whom we spoke about Desire caught by the tail, a play written by Picasso himself in 1941 and famously represented in 1944. We say famously because the representation in itself (in the home of Michel and Louise Leiris and interpreted by Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Raymond Queneau, Dora Maar and Albert Camus in front of Jacques Lacan, Henri Michaux, Georges Bataille and Claude Simon among other names from the Parisian intelligentsia of the time) was conceived from the first moment as an artistic, political and historical statement.
As Manzano observed throughout the session, it could be for that reason that the history of the text, its sense as an act, more than a verbal object, is more interesting than the mere reading of the written word, not only because it highlights the omnivorous psychology of Picasso, who doesn’t seem to accept the imposition of any type of limit, but also for its recuperation at the end of the sixties by Jean-Jacques Lebel, in which it became a scandalous countercultural achievement.
Participants in the session
Picasso not only confirmed, surprisingly, that he dedicated as much time to painting as to writing, but, even, allowed himself to pose, we understand playfully, as a writer of who some paintings are also conserved. It is true that during the thirties, Picasso went through a serious crisis and thought about giving up painting for writing; Desire […], written in 1941, is one of the results of this interest for the exploration of a non pictorial language, as Palau i Fabra points out in the prologue that accompanies the edition we commented on, in especially visual terms. In the edition that Plataforma Editorial recently produced of his poems in prose, Picasso commented: ‘the arts are reduced to just one: you can write a painting with words, in the same way as it is possible to paint sensations with a poem’.
Pablo Picasso, surrounded by friends such as Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, in Paris, on March 19th 1944
As Manzano observes, Desire […], written just when Surrealism was already in decline, would be a perfect surrealist exercise, if in some school it occurred to someone to ask for one; in this sense, it turns out to be fundamental to return to the original manuscript, which is revealed as a classical practice of automatic writing, and ignores the formalisation, with notes and the clearly marked jumping of lines, of the Catalanedition. This surrealist character could have something to do with the Picassian convergence of the arts. Throughout the session, we rescued the power of certain images (the Buñuelian emergence from a bathtub, the characters reduced to feet that complain about chilblains, the woman made of cold meats and sausages), the Bretonian will to place “drunkenness at the service of the revolution”, and above all the magnetic presence of Picasso that, as Manzano commented, seems capable of making everything interesting.