Miranda France

A Perfectly Normal Chap Who Forgot He Was Gay

The Shameful Life of Salvador Dalí


Faber & Faber 912pp £30 order from our bookshop

If one goal of modern biography is to lay bare secrets and perversions, then Salvador Dalí must necessarily make a disappointing subject, for he spent a lucrative lifetime laying them all bare himself. Few are the Dalí paintings that make no reference to masturbation, castration or father-hatred. As for vanity, which biographers usually pounce on, one of Dalí’s earliest diary entries reads: ‘I am madly in love with myself.’ That love affair continued throughout his life, which may have brought the artist solace, as he successively alienated friends and family.

Dalí claimed not to have ‘the slightest problem in making public my most shameful desires’. He talked freely of his difficulty in achieving an erection and his horror of female genitalia. Yet, one of the aims of Ian Gibson’s thorough and beautifully written book is to show that the artist was also motivated by fears he chose not to express. There is some evidence to support this. Dalí never confessed to the homosexual instincts which seem powerfully expressed in some of his paintings. In later life he is known to have resorted to anti-depressants.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Same trouble, different decade. Turns out this is not the first time has graced our humble cover.… ,
    • 'Gresham played an essential part in ensuring the stability of Tudor rule, in ways not always recognised in textboo… ,
    • Iris Murdoch was born one hundred years ago today. Thirty-six years ago, we published this interview with her ,
    • 'The official narrative has been that since the end of coal-burning in homes in the 1950s and the demise of heavy i… ,
    • 'Porter’s is a cacophonous vision that continually recalls the playwright Tony Kushner’s characterisation of Americ… ,
    • Lucy Moore makes her way through the Italian city of Otranto, discussing the origins of the Gothic and the legacy o… ,
    • .@NJCooper_crime's July crime roundup includes 'horrifying' and 'imaginative' new novels by @sarah_hilary,… ,