Pseudonym of Italian-born French writer Wilhelm de Kostrowitzky (1880-1918), initially important as an instigator and main literary promoter of movements like Fauvism and Cubism, and of painters like Georges Braque (1882-1963) and Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), during the first years of the 20th century. Towards the end of his life GA invented the term Surrealism to describe the harlequinade-dominated set (see Commedia dell'Arte) Picasso designed for Jean Cocteau's ballet Parade, produced 1917 by Sergei Diaghilev (1872-1929); he also used the term to describe his own play, Les Mamelles de Tirésias (produced 1917; trans as "The Breasts of Tiresias" Odyssey 1961). He wrote considerable fiction, some pornographic, like Les Onze Mille Verges (1907; trans as Les Onze Mille Verges, or The Amorous Adventures of Prince Mony Vibescu 1979 UK; this translation is bowdlerized, and may be dated 1976), whose bizarrenesses are almost supernaturally intense; but is best-known for his poetry.
The long title story of L'Enchanteur pourrissant ["The Rotting Magician"] (1904 Le Festin d'Esope; coll 1909) constitutes a kind of promenade in front of the tomb of Merlin, who cannot be awoken from his Spell by the adjurations of the female narrator. "Onirocritique" ["Dream Criticism"], also in this volume, describes the Arthurian City of Orqueneseles. L'Hérésiarcque et Cie (coll 1910; trans Remy Inglis Hall as The Heresiarch and Co 1965 US; vt The Wandering Jew and Other Stories 1965 UK) contains a variety of tales whose dilettantish ornateness tends to hide some sharp ironies, as in "The Passerby of Prague", which features a robustly amoral Wandering Jew. In "The Disappearance of Honoré Subrac" a man is so cowardly he turns into a Wainscot creature, invisible to others. In the False Amphion sequence a Confidence Man projects varying images of himself across Paris, via a hologram-like device. Le Poète Assassiné (1916; trans Ron Padgett as The Poet Assassinated 1968 UK) is a surrealistic autobiographical tale which conveys a phantasmagorical sense of life in pre-War Paris (see Urban Fantasy); it also appears in The Poet Assassinated and Other Stories (coll trans 1984 US), a volume which includes "The Blue Eye", about an apparition which arouses young girls approaching menarche, and "Arthur, the Once and Future King", set in AD2105, when the monarch reawakens. [JC]
Wilhelm de Kostrowitzky