Picaresque novel of the Spanish Civil War written by one of the most important post-WWII members of the Surrealist Movement.
Written by Galician surrealist artist and revolutionary E.F. Granell, The Novel of the Tupinamba Indian is a picaresque, Cervantes-influenced allegory of the Spanish Civil War. Set against a cruel landscape peopled by generals, priests, conquistadors, poets, witches, and nuns, Tupinamba Indian embodies Granell's wartime experiences while transforming them through his lush and incendiary surrealist imagination.
With his capricious behavior and detachable head, the protagonist—a member of one of Brazil's indigenous tribes—parodies the Enlightenment concept of the noble savage as he investigates a Spanish civilization upended by conflict. Like Robert Desnos' Liberty or Love or Michel Leiris' Aurora, Tupinamba Indian proceeds by the logic of dreams, resisting the brutal realties of Franco's ascent to dictatorship through absurdist travesty and paying homage to the classless society that might have been.
Praise for The Novel of the Tupinamba Indian:
"E. F. Granell's The Novel of the Tupinamba Indian, often cited as the most crucial surrealist novel of the Spanish Civil War, is brought to its fullest hallucinatory powers in this exquisite translation by David Coulter. In an ever-shifting world populated by nameless, iconic stock figures––the Priest, the Conquistador, the Bishop, the General, the Grand Turk––the Tupinamba Indian (whose head, slashed off by a conquistador, remains detachable/attachable in a brilliant metaphor for colonialism) wanders, stumbles, and thrives in a war landscape where time and space morph. At once horrific and humorous, the book is gifted by Granell's light touch and dry wit, his natural facility for an unstraining surrealism, unlike any other. A war novel, a political allegory not only of the late '30s but also our current political moment, and prefaced by the brilliant Benjamin Péret (who claims that in Granell's voyage 'chance replaces the compass'), The Novel of the Tupinamba Indian arrives in English, for the first time, and is, most importantly, an absolute delight to read."––Gillian Conoley
"Eugenio Granell's The Novel of the Tupinamba Indian exists not unlike an arcane planetary body floating outside the dictation of an over-arching solar gravitas, thereby invoking verbal hallucination via clairaudient spontaneity. Singed by the disruption and scandal that fuels conflict, Granell's Tupinamba Indian magnificently registers the author's experience with the didactic inferno of war and his ability to imaginatively ascend above it. We, in the English-speaking world are now showered with Granell's authentic verbal grace so artfully rendered from the Spanish original by the lingual respiration of David Coulter."––Will Alexander
"A man endures a brutal civil war in Spain that turns his life upside down. A former violinist, become journalist and combatant, suffers defeat and exile. Escaping into France, he finds his way to the Americas, settling for a time in Puerto Rico. There, an exceptional sense of humor filters through his war experience, fleecing expectations and convictions, and freeing him to levitate this personal and collective history into a madcap romp through a violated landscape. Where tragedy emerges with the Fascist victory, prologue to World War Two, laughter curdles its edges then burns it up. Where the sentimental gathers tears, magic takes over. With a twist of the wrist this water turns red; a delicious bloody drink to spice an afternoon game. No group is sacrosanct, no one beyond reproach, priests, intellectuals, and leader (aka Franco, our 'tiny Grand Turk'), included. The 'man,' our author, of course, is Eugenio F. Granell, acclaimed surrealist artist and writer. Now his dark, funny, penetrating expose of what the civil war meant, and what other like-wars can mean, comes to us in a fine English translation."––Allan Graubard, co-editor of Invisible Heads: Surrealists in North America - An Untold Story
"This extraordinary novel by the last Spanish surrealist is finally available in English, in David Coulter's dazzling translation. Literally inverting the colonial gaze, the beheaded-re-headed Tupinamba Indian has a 360 view of the savageries of western civilization. While the main focus of Granell's parodic travelogue is on Spain's fascism and the brutality of the Civil War, no '-ism' escapes his critique, certainly not Soviet-style communism, and not even surrealism itself. A brilliant, bloody carnivalesque, this novel is most outrageously funny when the history it reflects is at its most devastatingly tragic. Translations into American English often defang the original's sarcasm or dull its critical edge. But David Coulter's translation renders powerfully both the novel's kaleidoscopic multiple perspectives and its deliciously caustic notes."––Chana Kronfeld, author of On the Margins of Modernism; co-translator (with Chana Bloch) of Yehudi Amichai's Open Closed Open (winner of the 2001 PEN Translation Prize)
"One of the finest of all novels written by surrealists."––Michael Richardson, editor of The Dedalus Book of Surrealism