Basso – Decompositions: Essays on Art & Literature, 1973–1989

Decompositions collects all of Eric Basso's essays on art and literature in one volume. Basso takes us on a tour of bizarre literary landscapes and eccentric machines created by Villiers de l'Isle-Adam and Alfred Jarry. He explores Paul Valéry's brilliant subversion of philosophy and metaphysics in Monsieur Teste, and reveals the deathless apparition behind Maurice Blanchot's harrowing Death Sentence. The collection also contains illuminating, and diverting, pieces on Finnegans Wake, the French Romantics and Jacobean dramatist Cyril Tourneur, a study of the unexpectedly elusive, and venomous, C?line, and moving biographical portraits of Goya, G?rard de Nerval and Th?odore G?ricault. In the pivotal essay, "Annihilation," Basso takes a short story by a forgotten Hungarian writer as the springboard to a searing dissection of Rembrandt and the punitive anatomy, the alchemists' quest for a mystical Absolute, French poet St?phane Mallarm?'s collision with nothingness, Poe's chilling depiction of hypnotic suspension in articulo mortis, and Ren? Daumal's dangerous experiments with asphyxiation to test the frontiers of life and death. "Annihilation" closes with a new interpretation of Kafka's The Castle.

Basso approaches his subjects not as a critic but as an artist reflecting on the works, lives, deeds and frailties of other artists. These are studies that cut to the quick of what it means to create, and be created or destroyed by, a great poem, story, novel or painting.

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