New French biography: ‘Henry Darger: Dans Les Royaumes de L’Irréel’ by Xavier Mauméjean

First impressions: The opening chapters of Xavier Mauméjean’s French-language biography ‘Henry Darger: Dans Les Royaumes de L’Irréel’ are compelling. Mauméjean’s love for Darger’s work is self-evident, and his approach thoughtful and evocative. Mauméjean draws on a wide range of writings including Darger’s autobiography, diary, and documents like ‘Predictions and Threats‘, rather than focusing exclusively on ‘In the Realms of the Unreal’. I couldn’t agree more with this approach. Much of Darger’s written work has often been overlooked and undervalued. Focusing exclusively on ‘The Realms’ has frequently led to Darger being reduced to a caricature, denying him any agency in his own work. We can be fascinated by Darger’s art and writings and intrigued by his autobiography without pathologising him or psychoanalysing him in his absence. Darger’s ‘crime’ was to be working class, but it doesn’t fit with Darger’s ‘janitor’ image to reflect the breadth of his interests, for example his interest in ecology and the counterculture of the late 60s.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of ‘Henry Darger: Dans Les Royaumes de L’Irréel’. It’s widely available in France, but less so elsewhere at present. In the meantime, Chapters 1-6 can be found online.

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