Woman in the Plural

by: Vitezslav Nezval

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Woman in the Plural: Verse, Diary Entries, Poetry for the Stage, Surrealist Experiments by Vitezslav Nezval / ISBN 9788086264561 / 198-page hardcover from Twisted Spoon Press (Czech)

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In the summer of 1935, Vitezslav Nezval, already one of the most celebrated Czech poets of his generation, embarked on a period of manic creativity that would result in three volumes of poetry written and published in a two-year span (1935-37), mirrored by three volumes of memoir-like poetic prose. These collections would not only reshape Czech poetry, blending approaches developed by the French Surrealists with national cultural sensibilities and political concerns, taken together they are among the highest achievements of the interwar avant-garde. Each of the three volumes adopted a different principle of Surrealism as its general modus operandi. For Woman in the Plural (1936), the first volume in this loose trilogy, it was objective chance (while the third and final volume, The Absolute Gravedigger (1937), adopted the paranoiac-critical method).

Appearing in English translation for the first time, Woman in the Plural displays Nezval’s prodigious talents in a variety of forms, styles, and genres as he spins images of the female form like a zoetrope to create novel and hallucinatory ways of conceiving woman’s mythical, divine, and creative power. It is an eclectic collection that mixes profound free verse, at times reading like a cascade of automatic writing, with pages from Nezval’s dream journal, an exuberant set of Surrealist exercises, and a full-length play of chance encounters with “a woman like any other,” all the while addressing the social and political uncertainties of the 1930s. Led off by Karel Teige’s original collages from the first edition, Woman in the Plural is a vibrant and volatile tour de force from one of the greatest European writers of the 20th century.

Vitezslav Nezval (1900-58), an original member of the avant-garde artists group Devětsil and a leading figure in the Poetist movement, was perhaps the most prolific Czech writer of the interwar period. His output consists of a number of poetry collections, experimental plays and novels, memoirs, essays, and translations. His best work is from the interwar period. Nezval frequently visited Paris, engaging with the French surrealists. Forging a friendship with André Breton and Paul Eluard, he was instrumental in founding The Surrealist Group in Czechoslovakia.