A classic of fantastic literature, Leonora Carrington's The Hearing Trumpet is the occult twin to Alice in Wonderland, published with an introduction by Ali Smith in Penguin Modern Classics.
One of the first things ninety-two-year-old Marian Leatherby overhears when she is given an ornate hearing trumpet is her family plotting to commit her to an institution. Soon, she finds herself trapped in a sinister retirement home, where the elderly must inhabit buildings shaped like igloos and birthday cakes, endure twisted religious preaching and eat in a canteen overlooked by the mysterious portrait of a leering Abbess. But when another resident secretly hands Marian a book recounding the life of the Abbess, a joyous and brilliantly surreal adventure begins to unfold. Written in the early 1960s, The Hearing Trumpet remains one of the most original and inspirational of all fantastic novels.
Leonora Carrington (1917-2011) was a British born Surrealist painter and writer described, alongside people such as Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro, as one of the leading lights of the Surrealist movement. Born in Lancashire to a strict Catholic family, she first came into contact with surrealism through her lover, Surrealist painter Max Ernst, before moving to Mexico in 1942. The Hearing Trumpet, her most famous piece of writing, was first published in France in 1974.
If you enjoyed The Hearing Trumpet, you might like Fernando Pessoa's The Book of Disquiet, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.
'Reading The Hearing Trumpet liberates us from the miserable reality of our days'
'One of the most original, joyful, satisfying and quietly visionary novels of the twentieth century'
'This book is so inspiring...I love its freedom, its humour and how it invents its own laws. What specifically do I take from her? Her wig'