‘The Debutante’ by Leonora Carrington

“It was to escape from the world that I found myself each day at the zoo. The beast I knew best was a young hyena. She knew me too. She was extremely intelligent; I taught her French and in return she taught me her language. We spent many pleasant hours in this way.”

Carrington was twenty when she wrote “The Debutante.”  I think of her living with Max Ernst—more than twice her age and married—in a village in Southern France in an old farmhouse bought with money cadged from her mother but registered only in his name, World War II already a threatening cloud on the horizon. I think of her painting alongside an already well-established artist and then slipping away to write these fierce, strange, little stories, making worlds only she could see. I was twenty-three when I bought the then new 1993 Virago edition of Carrington’s stories and read this feral, bloody, wildly funny story about disturbingly entitled rebellion (the poor maid!). I’ve been writing towards it ever since. 

Originally written in 1937. Possibly published in French in a small magazine—Carrington’s publication history is complex! Collected in The Seventh Horse and Other Tales, Plume, 1988. Republished with an introduction by Marina Warner by Virago in 1993. Now available in The Debutante and Other Stories, Silver Press, 2017 and The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington, Dorothy, 2017

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