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The Dreaming Life of Leonora de la Cruz
by Agnieszka Taborska
translated by Danusia Stok in collaboration with Agnieszka Taborska; illustrations: Selena Kimball Smith
Midmarch Arts Press, February 2007


Using a hybrid of poetic fiction and scholarly rigor, Agnieszka Taborska has written a whimsical, oneiric tale in the tradition of black humor about a fictitious 18th-century visionary saint rediscovered 200 years after her death by the French Surrealists and worshipped by them as the patron saint of the subconscious, who saw in her dreams the future of mankind. The work is completed by a scientific glossary, which explains the factual allusions to the hagiographies and to the history of Surrealism. The book itself is a beauty, brought to visual life through the 35 Max Ernst-inspired collage illustrations by Taborska’s former student at RISD,  Selena Kimball Smith, which are works of art in themselves. The Sleepy Life of Leonora de la Cruz has been described by critics as “a beautiful story told through words and images that amuses and instructs simultaneously – and embraces all this within a work of art”. (Gazeta Wyborcza)
 
Agnieszka Taborska’s book, with collages by Selena Kimball, proves the ongoing power of the surrealist imagination to alter our perceptions of reality. Though hitherto unrecorded, the magnificent interventions of the Spanish Carmelite Leonora de la Cruz – somnolent, visionary, transgressive, magical – will ensure her a place in the pantheon of surrealist women, real and mythic, who embody poet André Breton’s insistence that beauty “will be convulsive or it will not be.” A stunning addition to the literature of surrealism....        – Whitney Chadwick, author of Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement
 
It is a prose poem in chapters, of haunting beauty, exactly the kind of writing Surrealism and we devotees of it most love. And the collages are something else: think Ernst and think past him. Truly one of the most amazing books I have ever had the privilege of dreaming through.        – Mary Ann Caws, Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature, CUNY Graduate Center, and the author of many books on Surrealism and the arts.
 
Agnieszka Taborska’s and Selena Kimball Smith’s imagination and irony have given us something which is in no way Post-Modernist or flashy Modernist camp. […] Taborska’s apocryphal work – for it is absolutely apocryphal, there being nothing other than imagination and irony – is made up of two “layers”. The first, the hagiography, is openly apocryphal. […] The second “layer” is meta-apocryphal, meta-hagiographic. This upper level of the edifice of dreams raised by Leonora was inhabited by the Surrealists.”       – Nowe Ksiazki (New Books)
 
The Sleepy Life… is a splendid tale, saturated with scholarly details, about that reality on the other side of the mirror, which, by various means, somnambulists and visionaries under the banner of “convulsive beauty” aspired to attain. […] fans of literary and intellectual games will abandon themselves to reading this book with flushed cheeks.        – Eksklusiv
 
Agnieszka Taborska has furnished her penetrating work with highly interesting annotations. She has introduced in them the most important figures in Surrealism, explained Surrealism’s terminology, described the daily life of the Surrealists and many significant episodes in the movement’s history. […] The fact that Leonora is an entirely fictitious character, who owes her existence entirely to Agnieszka Taborska’s untamed Surrealist imagination, will not put anybody off. Let us prize this remarkable poetic joke created by an author with charming erudition and literary sense.        – Zwierciadlo
 
It is both a work of Surrealist art and a commentary on the work of Surrealists. […] The significance of women in this avant-garde movement constitutes one of the most important threads in the book.         – Czas kultury
 
Agnieszka Taborska (b. 1961), art historian and writer, teaches 20th century European art and literature at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island. Her main area of interest is French Surrealism, the significance of women in the movement and the impact Surrealism has on contemporary art. She translated French literature into Polish, including books by Philippe Soupault and Roland Topor. Taborska has published numerous books and essays in Poland, among them a literary reportage on America entitled Love Country Music: The Diary of an American Journey, and a “linguist” fairytale for children and adults entitled In Raspberry Jam. Her works of children’s fiction have been translated into German, Japanese and Korean and have received literary prizes in Germany. Her last book, the surrealistic novel The Dreaming Life of Leonora de la Cruz, with collages by Selena Kimball Smith, was published in Poland in 2004 (Slowo/Obraz/Terytoria, Gdansk) and in the US (Midmarch Arts Press, NYC 2006). It will be published in France in the fall of 2007.
 
Selena Kimball is a native of Maine. She graduated with a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1997. Her work has been shown in group and solo exhibitions in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, and Poland. A solo show of her paintings was held at the Museum Taratului in Bucharest. In addition, she has collaborated with writers and filmmakers, and her animations have been screened at film festivals internationally. She lives with a library of old books, collected for over a decade, which are carefully destroyed to make her collages. She is currently an MFA student at Hunter College and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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