In her own words...



The following sample of ruminations, souvenirs, anecdotes, conversations, flights, captures, voices, and futile opinions has been written down to provide a view of an American artist who for nearly half of her life was an international one by reason of living abroad. That such a pattern of space and time is decisive in shaping late thoughts is indisputable. That it shapes the artist's inner vision and fundamental worth is of course absurd. Such a view can only apply to thirsty talents ever ready to soak up the colored inks of their peers no matter where they find them.

The other reason for the book is Max Ernst. An obsessive desire to talk of this very great man, to evoke our shared thirty-four years, to bring him into focus, to brush aside for a little the enigma that he has presented to most people, in short, to make him available and alive as I knew him to be. This, and the firm belief that only I can provide certain fundamental truths about us, have kept me happy in the telling of them.

     –“Author's Note,” p. 7.


About this work

Birthday was published in 1986 by The Lapis Press, Santa Monica. It has also been translated in French, Swedish, German, and Japanese editions. In 2004, an expanded version of this memoir was published under the title Between Lives.

Henry Geldzahler:  To a question about how she worked on the book, she responds, "I write things out like this, scratch, scratch. Then they find their way into my typewriter, which is 50 years old.  It's perfect; my thought is matched to the pace of that machine."
     —from “Dorothea Tanning: Max Ernst and Me.” (Book review.)  Elle (April 1987), p. 116.