On 14th January 1941, Pablo Picasso began work on his latest creation, a surrealist six-act play which was to prefigure the theatre of the absurd, and to which he gave the title: Le Desir attrapé par la queue (Desire Caught By the Tail). Working rapidly, as was his custom, he completed the play on 16th January 1941.
The scene is set at a Paris hotel in the evening of Tuesday 14th January 1941 with a stage direction indicating that the action takes places in total darkness. The characters are preoccupied with three things: hunger, food and love.
The play was given its first airing on Sunday 19th March 1944 with a reading in the apartment of Picasso's friend Michel Leiris, at 53 bis quai des Grands-Augustin. The all-star cast included Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre and Raymond Queneau, and the director was Albert Camus.
Several months later on 16th June, all those that had participated in the event were invited by Picasso to his apartment, where the celebrated photographer Brassai was also on hand immortalise the gathering.
As for the play itself, its English translator, Bernard Frechtman, wrote in his foreword to his translation:
'It says nothing of human destiny or of the human condition.... It is gratifying to advise the reader that Picasso has nothing to say of man, nor of the universe. This in itself is a considerable achievement.'