Great Liberty by Julien Gracq
A previously untranslated gem of Surrealist prose poetry from the acclaimed French novelist
In 1941, Julien Gracq, newly released from a German prisoner-of-war camp, wrote a series of prose poems that would come to represent the only properly Surrealist writings in his oeuvre. Surrealism provided Gracq with a means of counteracting his disturbing wartime experiences; his newfound freedom inspired a new freedom of personal expression, and he gave the collection an appropriate title, Great Liberty: “In the occult dictionary of Surrealism, the true name of poetry is liberation.” Gracq the poet rather than the novelist is at work here: Surrealist fireworks lace through bewitching modernist romance, fantasy, black humor and deadpan absurdism. A later, postwar section entitled “The Habitable Earth” presents Gracq as visionary traveler exploring Andes and Flanders and returning to the narrative impulse of his better-known fiction.
Julien Gracq (1910–2007), born Louis Poirier, is known for such dreamlike novels as The Castle of Argol, A Dark Stranger, The Opposing Shore and Balcony in the Forest. He was close to the Surrealist movement, and André Breton in particular, to whom he devoted a critical study.