Claude Cahun: The Soldier with No Name

Claude Cahun: The Soldier with No Name

Gavin James Bower

Language: English

Pages: 45

ISBN: 1780990448

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Claude Cahun is the most important artist you've never heard of - until now. Writer, photographer, lesbian; revolutionary activist, surrealist, resistance fighter - Cahun witnessed the birth of the Paris avant-garde, lived through two World Wars and, as 'Der Soldat ohne Namen', risked death by inciting mutiny on Nazi-occupied Jersey. And yet, she's until recently been merely a peripheral figure in these world-shaping events, relegated by academics to the footnotes in the history of art, sexual politics and revolutionary movements of the last century. Now more so than ever, Cahun demands a significant presence in the history of surrealism and the avant-garde - even, in the literary canon of early twentieth-century literature. Indeed her one major book, Disavowals, is a masterpiece of anti-memoir writing. Much has been made of her as a photographer, but Claude Cahun 'the writer' was one of the most radical and prescient leftists of the century. At a time when her star is rising like never before Claude Cahun: The Soldier With No Name represents the first explicit attempt in English to posit Cahun as an important figure in her own right, and to popularise one of the most prescient and influential artists of her generation.

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First published by Zero Books, 2013 Zero Books is an imprint of John Hunt Publishing Ltd., Laurel House, Station Approach, Alresford, Hants, SO24 9JH, UK For distributor details and how to order please visit the ‘Ordering’ section on our website. Text copyright: Gavin James Bower 2013 ISBN: 978 1 78099 044 6 All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in critical articles or reviews, no part of this book may be

of the war. In her prison diary, Cahun is typically magnanimous – but also playful. She describes, with humour, the washing facil- ities ‘as old as the building itself’. ‘They would have delighted an antique dealer,’ she continues. Prisoners had to carry heavy basins, which held seven or eight pints, around the cells. ‘By the time it overflowed, if the wardens were alerted, I should be well past human interference.’ The toilet at the trial was ‘set in the wall’ between floors. They had to use it

in all cases clear. She was the most unreliable of narrators, disingenuous, dissembling and deliberate in subsuming her identity while, on the surface at least, attempting to reveal it. And yet, none of this matters – because to be a Cahunian is akin to addiction: to art for art’s sake; to the most unknowable of all things; to a life lived without compromise, with courage and conviction. When Marcel Duchamp said ‘my art is that of living’, he was talking about individuals like Cahun – for her

beyond the auspices of a handful of art historians, students and the narrowest of readerships; and yet Claude Cahun is, to my mind then and still years later, the most singularly fascinating creative spirit of the twentieth century. A writer of poetry and prose, self-centered curator of tableaux, a skilled sketch artist, photographer and muse, a poseur, actress and performer, composer of objets d’art, a propagandist and a saboteur – Claude Cahun was nevertheless all but forgotten by the time of

real world and that of commodity. The English translation of its title is also worth further consideration. A Chicago Tribune profile of Cahun and Moore from the time translated it as ‘Denials’ – which is what Monnier, who had originally challenged Cahun to write a confession, wanted. From first arriving in Paris and making her way to the rue de l’Odéon, Cahun clearly sought Monnier’s acceptance and yet received only rejection – a result of her refusal to compromise, or a difference in taste,

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