The Voyage of Horace Pirouelle by Philippe Soupault, translated by Justin Vicari / ISBN 9781939663832 / 72-page paperback with flaps from Wakefield Press, published in 2023
Conceived in a hospital bed in 1917, then written a few months later after his first and fateful encounter with Lautréamont’s Maldoror, Philippe Soupault’s novella, The Voyage of Horace Pirouelle, preceded the author’s involvement with the Parisian Dada movement and the adventure of surrealism he would later launch with his friends. Inspired by a Liberian schoolmate’s sudden departure for Greenland on a whim and his subsequent disappearance into that distant country, Soupault imagines his alter ego’s adventures as entries in a journal both personal and fictional. Adopted by an Inuit tribe, Pirouelle drifts from one encounter to another, from one casual murder to another, until his life of liberty and spontaneity leads him to stasis at the edge of existence.
Floating between the romantic legacy of Arthur Rimbaud’s abandonment of literature and the banality and loss of personality and morality in the adventurer’s abandonment of society, The Voyage of Horace Pirouelle charts out a troubled tribute to wanderlust and the acte gratuit.
After taking an active part in French Dada, Philippe Soupault (1897–1990) cofounded the surrealist movement with André Breton and Louis Aragon, and authored with Breton The Magnetic Fields, the first official surrealist work. After being expelled from the movement for the crime of being “too literary,” he devoted his life to writing, travel, journalism, and political activity (for which he was put in prison by the collaborationist Vichy government).