Desire Caught by the Tail | Pablo Picasso’s play (1944)



Desire Caught by the Tail is a farcical play written by the painter Pablo Picasso.

In the winter of 1941, soon after the Germans had occupied Paris, Picasso while ill spent three days writing a play. Written in French, the piece was entitled Le Désir attrapé par la queue, which translates literally to “Desire Caught by the Tail.” However, it was not until 1944 that it had its first audience when it was given a reading in the Paris apartment of Michel Leiris. There the parts were read by such local literati as Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Valentine Hugo, Raymond Queneau and Picasso himself. Albert Camus directed the piece.

< * Jacques Lacan, Cecile Eluard (daughter of the surrealist poet Paul Eluard), Pierre Reverdy (surrealist and cubist poet), Luoise Leiris (wife of gallery owner Michel), Pablo Picasso, Zanie de Campan (actress), Valentine Hugo (artist and wife of great-grandson of Victor Hugo), Simone de Beauvoir, Brassaï,

** Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Michel Leiris (owner of famous Gallerie Luoise Leiris), Jean Aubier, editor
Brassaï, At the opening of Picasso‘s play, Desire Caught by the Tail, 1944
Desire2BCaught2Bby2Bthe2BTail 1

Described as “surrealistic” and “simply weird,” the play is rarely produced due to sheer incomprehensibility.[6] There is no plot to speak of. The play has abstractly named characters: besides the protagonist Big Foot and his love interest Tart, there are Onion, Round End, the Cousin, the two Bow-wows, Silence, Fat Anguish, Skinny Anguish and The Curtains. And the stage directions are highly impractical: the transparent doors light up and the dancing shadows of five monkeys eating carrots appear. Complete darkness.

While the narrative is nonlinear and the meaning nearly impossible to decipher, the work has been praised despite (and sometimes for) its lack of message. Bernard Frechtman, who translated the work from the original French, writes in his Foreword, “It says nothing of human destiny or of the human condition. In an age which has discovered man with a capital M, it is gratifying to advise the reader that Picasso has nothing to say of man, nor of the universe. This in itself is a considerable achievement.”

< Group of actors of the play “Desire Caught by the Tail“, at Picasso’s studio, Atelier des Grands-Augustins, Paris, 1944
Picasso, Pierre Reverdy, Jean Marais, Apel. Les Fenosa, Françoise Gilot, Jaime Sabartés, Brassaï, Jean Cocteau


<  Dylan Thomas (1914 – 1953) acting as stage manager at a one-night performance of Pablo Picasso’s play ‘Desire Caught By The Tail’ at the Rudolf Steiner Hall, London, March 1950
English art and radio critic Frederick Laws (left) and American photographer Lee Miller attend a one-night performance of Pablo Picasso’s play ‘Desire Caught By The Tail’ at the Rudolf Steiner Hall in London, March 1950 ^

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