Sunday, October 23, 2005

Alfred Perlés - Renegade & Writer (Part 1)

Alfred Perles interests me very much. He's so prominent a figure in a great chapter of Henry Miller's life (he is 'Carl' in Tropic Of Cancer), yet practically no one seems to have created a comprehensive Perles biography or translated his novels into English.

The single publication that devotes itself to Perles as Subject is Alfred Perlés: Renegade & Writer. The 19-page booklet was published by Village Press (London) in 1974 (and printed by Villiers Publications Ltd), when Perles was 77. It was researched and written by Douglas Stone, who also translated passages from Perles' French novels.

"This essay is the first real attempt to rectify the inexplicable neglect of Alfred Perles, a significant contemporary writer. His reputation has hitherto derived mainly from his biography of Henry Miller and his close personal relationship with the American writer. But, as Douglas Stone argues, the present neglect of Perles will be remedied as soon as certain readers and scholars "become aware of his important contribution to the literature of his time."
(back cover, Alfred Perles: Renegade & Writer).

Here's an encapsulated rundown of this essay:

Page 3 - Perles has been frequently mentioned in reference to Miller, yet never as "a writer of significant interest in his own right," except by Miller in issues of The Booster. A couple of quotes by Miller from The Booster, relating to Perles' French novels Sentiments Limitrophes (1936) and Le Quatuor En Re Majeur (1938).

Page 4- Perles as a writer in many languages (French, English, and his native German). Besides the two French novels mentioned above, he also wrote a bit of poetry (in The Booster); My Friend Henry Miller; My Friend Lawrence Durrell; The Renegade (1943); The New Instinctivism manifesto (with Miller); many columns in the "Port Edition" of the Chicago Tribune; several short stories, essays and letters, incl Allez Sans Retour, Londres; critical essays (i.e. on Rilke) in The New Review; Art And Outrage (with Durrell).

Page 5 - Biographical information (which I will cover later), including a quote in which he describes his sense of rootlessness.

Page 6 - Relationship and collaborations of Perles and Miller in Paris, motivated by "food, sex and writing."

Page 7/8 - Despite his ability to be clownish with Miller, Perles took his art seriously. "The mission of man on earth is to remember." Sentiments Limitrophes was written "in the vein of Tropic Of Cancer." A portion of the book's preface (translated by Stone) in which Perles rejects the notion that the book should meet any preconceptions ("I don't promise anything.").

In this preface, Perles also references several of his own failed projects: Luxurette (destroyed in a fit of insecurity); Leuchtraketen (left with a hotel manager in Berlin as a pawn for debt owed); Title to follow ("long agonized in a drawer").
To be continued ...

The book cover image on this 1984 edition of Sentiments Limitrophes is a detail from a Brassai photograph.

18 Comments:

Blogger RuKsaK said...

I've read sections of his biography of their times together in Villa Seurat. It almost makes one weep to think that he is so, so underappreciated.

10:32 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone out there know where Perles lived in London ?
from Stefan Carapiet : scarapiet@hotmail.com

7:50 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perles was living in London at 69 Parliament Hill, Hampstead, London NW3,(with his wife Anne Barret) when he published 'Art and Outrage' in 1959.

8:20 am  
Anonymous Brandon Terzic said...

Hello there. Great blog and thanks for sharing all these great things. I just wanted to add my own two cents about Alfred Perles. A few years ago I came across an old copy "My friend Henry Miller" and have since read it two or three times. It is a great read and the one thing I gleaned from it was how much him and Henry rubbed off on each other as personalities and as writers. It was interesting to hear him use certain pet phrases that were probably cliche's for both of them. I really think that Alfred was a really important figure in Henry's life, maybe in some ways the most important figure at the most crucial stage of Henry's creative development. I would love to find as many of Alfred's writings in English as possible. I would highly recommend that anybody that is passionate about Miller's work should check out "My friend Henry Miller" Thanks again for putting the energy into creating this blog. Peace

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