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This new English translation of The Emperor of China, The Mute Canary & The Executioner of Peru by UVic School of Music faculty member Christopher Butterfield captures the character of the original French versions written by Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes.
Three savage plays from the man André Breton designated as one of the only “true Dadas” (alongside Tristan Tzara and Francis Picabia): The Emperor of China (1916), The Mute Canary (1920) and The Executioner of Peru (1928). The first two have long been acknowledged as highpoints in the Dada movement’s contribution to the theater, but in their brutal depictions of violent sexuality and nightmarish tyranny, and their casts of manipulative bureaucrats, murderous henchmen, insane dictators, lascivious virgins, Ubuesque cuckolds and nonsense-spewing enigmas, these plays also echo the work of such other dissident surrealists of the era as Georges Bataille and André Masson. These unsettling theatrical works were significant anticipations of Antonin Artaud’s Theater of Cruelty and the Theater of the Absurd of the 1960s.
About the Translator
Christopher Butterfield studied composition with Rudolf Komorous at the University of Victoria (B.Mus. 1975) and with Bülent Arel at the State University of New York at Stony Brook (M.A. 1977). He lived in Toronto between 1977 and 1992, where he was active as a performance artist, rock guitar player, and composer. In 1979/1980 he taught in the graduate visual arts department at Concordia University in Montreal, and in 1986 and 1989 he taught in the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. In 1992 he was appointed Assistant Professor of Composition at the University of Victoria. His music has been performed across Canada and in Europe, and is recorded on the CBC and Artifact labels.
About the Author
Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes (1884–1974) was a French writer and artist, and one of the fiercest adherents of the Paris Dada movement, acting as the group’s secretary, and for which he authored some of its most vitriolic texts. Disenchanted with the Surrealist movement that followed, Ribemont-Dessaignes allied himself instead with such other Surrealist dissidents as René Daumal and the Grand Jeu. Throughout his long life, Ribemont-Dessaignes authored a sizable oeuvre of novels, plays, poetry, essays and memoirs.