Claude Cahun: The Soldier with No Name Paperback – 30 Aug 2013
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About the Author
Gavin James Bower is a writer and editor. He was born in Lancashire and lives in London.
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Claude Cahun turned out to be a Surrealist writer and photographer, at the heart of the movement yet keeping a distance, which maybe accounted for her relative obscurity - obscure not only to me, I gather. Looking up her name on Amazon, I discovered quite a number of books on her, mostly published after the turn of the millennium, some books of her photography, some her own writings, some academic analyses; all of them substantial and expensive. So where better to start than this extended introductory essay?
I found it elegantly produced, as all Zero books are, and elegantly written. Both Bower's novels have their own distinct style, fitted to their themes and subjects; this also has its particular style and approach.
It certainly has an academic heft to it, a convincing authority. But it is also convincingly personal, describing Bower's own discovery of Cahun's peculiar work and her unconventional and surprisingly heroic life. This combination of fascinating subject and personal engagement is what made the book so readable for me, enabling me to share that same sense of discovery.
And it was a very welcome discovery; after years of familiarity with Surrealism in both its literary and arts forms, it was refreshing to discover someone - and a woman at that - who combined both forms, produced some stunning imagery, not least of which was her own persona, stood up the Pope (Breton) and even more importantly, to the Nazis on the occupied Channel Isles.
Cahun almost single-handedly restored my jaundiced faith in the movement, and in art itself. For that reason, I have been championing Cahun to friends, encouraging them to share that discovery.
And as for their question - where to start? - my answer has been: where better than this elegant, informed, succinct and passionate introduction. From there we can go on to the weightier tomes.
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