Eugenio F. Granell Tribute
Tuesday, December 12, 2017, 7:00 p.m., City Lights Booksellers, 261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco
with David Coulter and Garett Caples
celebrating the release of
The Novel of the Tupinamba Indian
by Eugenio F. Granell
published by City Lights Books
Written by Galician surrealist artist and communist 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 redendered 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
Artist, writer, musician, socialist, professor, and veteran of the Spanish Civil War, Eugenio F. Granell (1912-2001) was one of the leading figures of the post-World War II international surrealist movement. He formed close friendships with such figures as Marcel Duchamp, André Breton, Wifredo Lam, Benjamin Péret, Toyen, and the revolutionary writer Victor Serge. Upon the defeat of the Republican government in 1939, Granell was exiled for 46 years, living in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Puerto Rico and New York City, where he resided from 1957 until his 1985 return to Spain.
Translator David Coulter is an artist who currently divides his time between Berkeley, CA and Coimbra, Portugal, where he participates with the Cabo Mondego Section of Portuguese Surrealism.
Garett Caples is a poet, journalist, art and music historian, and presently the poetry editor at City Lights Books. He is the author of the poetry collections Power Ballads (Wave Books 2016), Complications (Meritage Press, 2007), The Garrett Caples Reader (Angle Press/Black Square Editions, 1999), and the books of criticism Retrievals (Wave Books, 2014), The Philistine's Guide to Hip Hop (Ninevolt, 2004), as well as numerous chap books.