A Mammal’s Notebook - The Writings of Erik Satie

Atlas Press


A Mammal’s Notebook: The Writings of Erik Satie, Edited and introduced by Ornella Volta, translated by Antony Melville / ISBN 9781900565660 / 224-page hardcover from Atlas Press (UK)


Humorous and Dadaistic writings from the original Velvet Gentleman and pioneering composer

This is the largest selection, in any language, of the writings of Erik Satie (1866-1925). Although once dismissed as an eccentric, Satie has come to be seen as a key influence on modern music, and his writings reveal him as one of the most beguiling of absurdists, in the mode of Lewis Carroll or Edward Lear--but with a strong streak of Dadaism (a movement in which he participated). The nonconformism of Satie's private life seems deliberately calculated: he assumed various personae at different periods of his life, from the mystical "velvet gentleman" to the Dadaist disguised as quizzical bureaucrat. His poignant, sly and witty writings embody all of his contradictions.

Included here are his "autobiographical" "Memoirs of an Amnesic"; gnomic annotations to his musical scores ("For the Shrivelled and the Dimwits, I have written a suitably ponderous chorale … I dedicate this chorale to those who do not like me"); the publications of his private church; his absurdist play Medusa's Snare; advertising copy for his local suburban newspaper; and the mysterious, calligraphed "private advertisements" found stuffed behind his piano after his death. Satie referred to himself as "a man in the manner of Adam (he of Paradise)" and added: "My humor is reminiscent of Cromwell's.I am also indebted to Christopher Columbus, as the American spirit has sometimes tapped me on the shoulder, and I have joyfully felt its ironically icy bite." He died as he lived: "without quite ceasing to smile."

The smallest work by Satie is small the way a keyhole is small. Everything changes when you put your eye to it. — Jean Cocteau

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