Man Ray, Gisèle Prassinos reading her Poems to the Surrealists, 1934
André Breton, René Char, Paul Éluard, Henri Parisot, Benjamin Péret, Gisèle Prassinos, Mario Prassinos
“I never knew how to write a realistic story. I never knew how to draw or to write life as it is. Each line, each word distracts me and pulls me towards the impossible.”
Gisèle Prassinos, Le Temps n’est rien, 1958
Gisele Prassinos, La Sauterelle arthritique (The Arthritic Grasshopper) GLM, 1935
Of Greek parentage, Gisele Prassinos was born in Istanbul. Her family emigrated to France when she was two years old. A precocious writer, whom Andre Breton is credited with discovering, she was only fourteen when her first texts appeared in 1934. They were published in the French surrealist-oriented magazine Minotaure and in the Belgian periodical Documents 34. The following year, her first book came out under the title La Sauterelle arthritique (The Arthritic Grasshopper), prefaced by the surrealist poet Paul Eluard, who also wrote a postface for her subsequent collection, Le Feu maniaque, in 1939.
Gisele Prassinos, Le Feu maniaque, 1939
Noting that in La Sauterelle arthritique “enchantment beats its wings among the strange attractions of crepuscular naturalism,” Eluard praised in Gisele Prassinos’ work the spirit of “disassociation, suppression, negation, revolt,” in which he saw “the ethics of children, of poets who refuse to improve, and who will remain freaks so long as they have not awakened in all men the wish to face squarely everything separating them from themselves.” Later, Le Feu maniaque prompted Eluard to remark of its author, “She offers all comers a pure moment in exchange for centuries of boredom.”
Gisèle Prassinos, 34 autographed letters to Mario Prassinos, 1939-1941. Printed in 1935 by Guy Lévis-Mano
Breton, for his part, declared in the Anthologie de l’Humour noir, “Gisele Prassions’ tone is unique: all poets are jealous of it.” That tone marks the early story reproduced here: Journoir (Blackday) dating from 1934. This text is characteristic, in that it makes us witness to the operations of a child’s imagination, as yet unrestrained by the adult’s sense of the world as stable and limited by rational predictability. The narrator’s attitude is consistently closer to curiosity than to horror, while no moral preoccupations color her account.
Gisele Prassinos, The Traveller, 1961 Gisele Prassinos
Bringing together a number of her early texts under the heading Les Mots endormis (Sleeping Words), Gisele Prassinos spoke of them in 1967 as “the result of a certain absence“:
“There is a pocket of darkness in us that, with the help of a drowsiness of consciousness, writing succeeds in penetrating. Once the first word has been set free, the wave breaks. Then comes them moment when the pen drops, discouraged by its own hesitation. Something has intervened; returning, consciousness reclaims its rights, wishing to put things in order. Consciousness is now surprised, sometimes filled with wonder by the word from the dark, often tempted to make a contribution of its own.”
Gisèle & Mario Prassinos, 1934
Born of the absence brought about by the practice of automatic writing, the stories of Gisele Prassions lend support to Eluard’s affirmation that automatism “ceaselessly opens new doors on the unconscious and, as it confronts the unconscious with the conscious, with the world, increases its treasures.”
After World War II Prassinos’s association with organised surrealism was limited, but she continued to publish widely.
Gisèle Prassinos, works, 1920- 2015