Elena Poniatowska: Leonora (Leonora)

The latest addition to my website is Elena Poniatowska‘s Leonora (Leonora). This is a feminist biographical novel about Leonora Carrington. Carrington was a Surrealist painter, something quite rare for an English woman. She was the daughter of a textile magnate and, though brought up in wealth, she was very free-spirited, which did not go down well with her strict father. She was twice expelled from convent schools and was sent to a finishing school in Florence, where she discovered art. Once again, she had trouble with the school authorities for her rebellious spirit. After being presented at court (which she hated), she was off to Paris where she met and fell in love with Max Ernst, the German-born Surrealist painter. The war intervened and he was interned, while Leonora fled to Spain. While there she had a nervous breakdown and spent a long time in a mental hospital. Back in Madrid, she married a Mexican and the couple went off to the United States and thence to Mexico. She spent most of her adult life, though, initially, she hated it. She married a Hungarian photographer, had two children, became a well-known painter (though not in her home country) and a writer. Elena Poniatowska knew Leonora Carrington well and insists this is a novel and not a biography. Above all, it it is a feminist work about a woman who wanted to be herself and not controlled by the various men in her life nor follow the standard for women of her class and age. It is a very fine book but it has done much better in the Spanish-speaking world than in the English-speaking world, where both women are relatively unknown.

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