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By Enrique Vila-Matas, Anne McLean, Thomas Bunstead

A reader’s fictional journey of the artwork and lives of a few of the good 20th-century Surrealists

An writer (a model of Vila-Matas himself) offers a brief “history” of a mystery society, the Shandies, who're passionate about the concept that of “portable literature.” The society is totally imagined, yet during this rollicking, intellectually playful booklet, its participants comprise writers and artists like Marcel Duchamp, Aleister Crowley, Witold Gombrowicz, Federico García Lorca, guy Ray, and Georgia O’Keefe. The Shandies meet secretly in flats, motels, and cafes in every single place Europe to debate what nice literature rather is: short, no longer too critical, penetrating the depths of the mysterious. We witness the Shandies having adventures in desk bound submarines, underground caverns, African backwaters, and the cultural capitals of Europe.

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Additional info for A Brief History of Portable Literature (New Directions Paperbook)

Sample text

He spent days trying to uncover a meaning to the frenetic moving around of files, until Duchamp, who didn’t yet know the content of the letter from Bocado, recounted a dream to him, supplying (without knowing it) the crucial clue he’d been trying so hard to find. Duchamp said he’d dreamed four phrases, the first three constructed out of words subject to the realm of coincidence: phrases that reflected the language that might be expected of pickled chance—which, as is well known, was always his great specialty.

Vienna is born in them, and I was born in Vienna, to see them reborn. ” It seemed to Larbaud that Littbarski had played with two meanings of the word lodge. The houses in Vienna also had glass-domed pavilions outside that were used for household clutter. He also had meant to indicate that he understood perfectly that the offer of a “key” would bring him into contact with portable literature, that is, with a non-existent literature, seeing as none of the Shandies knew what it consisted of (though paradoxically this was what made it possible).

An explosion of stellar conversations and the cherries of vagabond greetings,” one of their helpers, Vicente Huidobro, said. In his diary, we find the following sketch: “Under a full moon in Vienna one night, when everything is as everything is beheld. An astrological and ephemeral house, falling from universe to universe. All the portable mob’s bigwigs were there. Explosion of disguises, artifices and Viennese gondolas. An absolute explosion of stellar conversations and the cherries of vagabond greetings.

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