A history of surrealism, surreal art, and the artists involved in the surrealist art movement. A definitive history of the surrealist movement.

What is Surrealism?
André Breton

At the beginning of the war of 1870 (he was to die four months later,aged twenty-four), the author of the Chants de Maldororand of Poésies, Isidore Ducasse, better known bythe name of Comte de Lautréamont, whose thought has been of thevery greatest help and encouragement to myself and my friendsthroughout the fifteen years during which we have succeeded in carryinga common activity, made the following remark, among many others whichwere to electrify us fifty years later: ``At the hour in which I write,new tremors are running through the intellectual atmosphere; it isonly a matter of having the courage to face them.'' 1868-75: it isimpossible, looking back upon the past, to perceive an epoch sopoetically rich, so victorious, so revolutionary and so chargedwith distant meaning as that which stretches from the separatepublication of the Premier Chant de Maldoror to theinsertion in a letter to Ernest Delahaye of Rimbauld's last poem,Rêve, which has not so far been included in hisComplete Works. It is not an idle hope to wish to see theworks of Lautréamont and Rimbaud restored to their correcthistorical background: the coming and the immediate results of the warof 1870. Other and analogous cataclysms could not have failed to riseout of that military and social cataclysm whose final episode was tobe the atrocious crushing of the Paris Commune; the last in datecaught many of us at the very age when Lautréamont and Rimbaudfound themselves thrown into the preceding one, and by way of revengehas had as its consequence - and this is the new and important fact -the triumph of the Bolshevik Revolution.

I should say that to people socially and politically uneducated as wethen were - we who, on one hand, came for the most part from thepetite-bourgeoisie, and on the other, were all by vocation possessedwith the desire to intervene upon the artistic plane - the days ofOctober, which only the passing of the years and the subsequentappearance of a large number of works within the reach of all werefully to illumine, could not there and then have appeared to turn sodecisive a page in history. We were, I repeat, ill-prepared andill-informed. Above all, we were exclusively preoccupied with acampaign of systematic refusal, exasperated by the conditions underwhich, in such an age, we were forced to live. But our refusal did notstop there; it was insatiable and knew no bounds. Apart from theincredible stupidity of the arguments which attempted to legitimize ourparticipation in an enterprise such as the war, whose issue left uscompletely indifferent, this refusal was directed - and having beenbrought up in such a school, we are not capable of changing somuch that is no longer so directed - against the whole series ofintellectual, moral and social obligations that continually and fromall sides weigh down upon man and crush him. Intellectually, it wasvulgar rationalism and chop logic that more than anything else formedthe causes of our horror and our destructive impulse; morally, it wasall duties: religious, civic and of the family; socially, it was work(did not Rimbaud say: ``Jamais je ne travaillerai, ô flots defeu!'' and also: ``La main à plume vaut la main à charrue.Quel siècle à mains! Je n'aurai jamais ma main!''). Themore I think about it, the more certain I become that nothing was toour minds worth saving, unless it was... unless it was, at last``l'amour la poésie,'' to take the bright and trembling title ofone of Paul Eluard's books, ``l'amour la poésie,'' considered asinseparable in their essence and as the sole good. Between thenegation of this good, a negation brought to its climax by the war,and its full and total affirmation (``Poetry should be made by all, notone''), the field was not, to our minds, open to anything but aRevolution truly extended into all domains, improbably radical, to thehighest degree impractical and tragically destroying within itself thewhole time the feeling that it brought with it both of desirabilityand of absurdity. Many of you, no doubt, would put this down to acertain youthful exaltation and to the general savagery of the time; Imust, however, insist on this attitude, common to particular men andmanifesting itself at periods nearly half a century distant from oneanother. I should affirm that in ignorance of this attitude one canform no idea of what surrealism really stands for. This attitude alonecan account, and very sufficiently at that, for all the excesses thatmay be attributed to us but which cannot be deplored unless onegratuitously supposes that we could have started from any otherpoint. The ill-sounding remarks, that are imputed to us, theso-called inconsiderate attacks, the insults, the quarrels, thescandals - all things that we are so much reproached with - turned upon the same road as the surrealist poems. From the very beginning, thesurrealist attitude has had that in common with Lautréamont andRimbaud which once and for all binds our lot to theirs, and that iswartime defeatism.

I am not afraid to say that this defeatism seems to be morerelevant than ever. ``New tremors are running through the intellectualatmosphere; it is only a matter of having the courage to face them.''They are, in fact, always running through the intellectualatmosphere: the problem of their propagation and interpretationremains the same and, as far as we are concerned, remains to besolved. But, paraphrasing Lautréamont, I cannot refrain fromadding that at the hour in which I speak, old and mortal shivers aretrying to substitute themselves for those which are the very shiversof knowledge and of life. They come to announce a frightful disease, adisease followed by the deprivation of all rights; it is only a matterof having the courage to face them also. This disease is called fascism.

Let us be careful today not to underestimate the peril: the shadow hasgreatly advanced over Europe recently. Hitler, Dolfuss and Mussolinihave either drowned in blood or subjected to corporal humiliationeverything that formed the effort of generations straining towards amore tolerable and more worthy form of existence. In capitalistsociety, hypocrisy and cynicism have now lost all sense of proportionand are becoming more outrageous every day. Without making exaggeratedsacrifices to humanitarianism, which always involves impossiblereconciliations and truces to the advantage of the stronger, i shouldsay that in this atmosphere, thought cannot consider the exteriorworld without an immediate shudder. Everything we know about fascismshows that it is precisely the homologation of this state of affairs,aggravated to its furthest point by the lasting resignation that itseeks to obtain from those who suffer. Is not the evident role offascism to re-establish for the time being the tottering supremacy offinance-capital? Such a role is of itself sufficient to make it worthyof all our hatred; we continue to consider this feigned resignation asone of the greatest evils that can possibly be inflicted upon beingsof our kind, and those who would inflict it deserve, in our opinion,to be beaten like dogs. Yet it is impossible to conceal the fact thatthis immense danger is there, lurking at our doors, that it has madeits appearance within our walls, and that it would be pure byzantinismto dispute too long, as in Germany, over the choice of the barrier tobe set up against it, when all the while, under severalaspects, it is creeping nearer and nearer to us. During the courseof taking various steps with a view to contributing, in so far as I amcapable, to the organization in Paris of the anti-fascist struggle, Ihave noticed that already a certain doubt has crept into theintellectual circles of the left as to the possibility of successfullycombating fascism, a doubt which has unfortunately infected even thoseelements whom one might have thought it possible to rely on and whohad come to the fore in this struggle. Some of them have even begun tomake excuses for the loss of the battle already. Such dispositionsseem to me to be so dismaying that i should not care to be speakinghere without first having made clear my position in relation to them,or without anticipating a whole series of remarks that are to follow,affirming that today, more than ever before, the liberation of themind, demands as primary condition, in the opinion of thesurrealists, the express aim of surrealism, the liberation ofman, which implies that we must struggle with our fetters with allthe energy of despair; that today more than ever before thesurrealists entirely rely for the bringing about of the liberation ofman upon the proletarian Revolution.

I now feel free to turn to the object of this pamphlet, which is toattempt to explain what surrealism is. A certain immediate ambiguitycontained in the word surrealism, is, in fact, capable of leading oneto suppose that it designates I know not what transcendental attitude,while, on the contrary it expresses - and always has expressed for us- a desire to deepen the foundations of the real, to bring about aneven clearer and at the same time ever more passionate consciousnessof the world perceived by the senses. The whole evolution ofsurrealism, from its origins to the present day, which i am about toretrace, shows that our unceasing wish, growing more and more urgentfrom day to day, has been at all costs to avoid considering a systemof thought as a refuge, to pursue our investigations with eyes wideopen to their outside consequences, and to assure ourselves that theresults of these investigations would be capable of facing thebreath of the street. At the limits, for many years past - ormore exactly, since the conclusion of what one may term the purelyintuitive epoch of surrealism (1919-25) - at the limits, I say,we have attempted to present interior reality and exterior reality astwo elements in process of unification, or finally becomingone. This final unification is the supreme aim of surrealism:interior reality and exterior reality being, in the present form ofsociety, in contradiction (and in this contradiction we seethe verycause of man's unhappiness, but also the source of his movement), wehave assigned to ourselves the task of confronting these two realitieswith one another on every possible occasion, of refusing to allow thepreeminence of the one over the other, yet not of acting on the oneand on the other both at once, for that would be to supposethat they are less apart from one another than they are (and I believethat those who pretend that they are acting on both simultaneously areeither deceiving us or are a prey to a disquieting illusion); ofacting on these two realities not both at once, then, but one afterthe other, in a systematic manner, allowing us to observe theirreciprocal attraction and interpenetration and to give to thisinterplay of forces all the extension necessary for the trend of thesetwo adjoining realities to become one and the same thing.

As I have just mentioned in passing, I consider that one candistinguish two epochs in the surrealist movement, of equal duration,from its origins (1919, year of the publication of ChampsMagnétiques) until today; a purely intuitiveepoch, and a reasoning epoch. The first can summarily becharacterized by the belief expressed during this time in theall-powerfulness of thought, considered capable of freeing itself bymeans of its own resources. This belief witnesses to a prevailing viewthat I look upon today as being extremely mistaken, the view thatthought is supreme over matter. The definition of surrealismthat has passed into the dictionary, a definition taken from theManifesto of 1924, takes account only of this entirelyidealist disposition and (for voluntary reasons of simplification andamplification destined to influence in my mind the future of thisdefinition) does so in terms that suggest that I deceived myself at thetime in advocating the use of an automatic thought not only removedfrom all control exercised by the reason but also disengaged from``all aesthetic or moral preoccupations.'' It should atleast have been said: conscious aesthetic or moralpreoccupations. During the period under review, in the absence, ofcourse, of all seriously discouraging exterior events, surrealistactivity remained strictly confined to its first theoretical premise,continuing all the while to be the vehicle of that total``non-conformism'' which, as we have seen, was the binding feature inthe coming together of those who took part in it, and the cause,during the first few years after the war, of an uninterrupted seriesof adhesions. No coherent political or social attitude, however, madeits appearance until 1925, that is to say (and it is important tostress this), until the outbreak of the Moroccan war, which,re-arousing in us our particular hostility to the way armed conflictsaffect man, abruptly placed before us the necessity of making a publicprotest. This protest, which, under the title LaRévolution d'Abord et Toujours (October 1925), joinedthe name of the surrealists proper to those of thirty otherintellectuals, was undoubtedly rather confused ideologically; it nonethe less marked the breaking away from a whole way of thinking; itnone the less created a precedent that was to determine the wholefuture direction of the movement. Surrealist activity, faced with abrutal, revolting, unthinkable fact, was forced to ask itselfwhat were its proper resources and to determine their limits;it was forced to adopt a precise attitude, exterior to itself, inorder to continue to face whatever exceeded these limits. Surrealistactivity at this moment entered into its reasoning phase. Itsuddenly experienced the necessity of crossing over the gap thatseparates absolute idealism from dialectical materialism. Thisnecessity made its appearance in so urgent a manner that we had toconsider the problem in the clearest possible light, with the resultthat for some months we devoted our entire attention to the means ofbringing about this change of front once and for all. If I do nottoday feel any retrospective embarrassment in explaining this change,that is because it seems to me quite natural that surrealist thought,before coming to rest in dialectical materialism and insisting, astoday, on the supremacy of matter over mind, should have beencondemned to pass, in a few years, through the whole historicdevelopment of modern thought. It came normally to Marx throughHegel, just as it came normally to Hegel through Berkeley andHume. These latter influences offer a certain particularity in that,contrary to certain poetic influences undergone in the same way, andaccommodated to those of the French materialists of the eighteenthcentury, they yielded a residuum of practical action. To tryand hide these influences would be contrary to my desire to show thatsurrealism has not been drawn up as an abstract system, that is tosay, safeguarded against all contradictions. It is also my desire toshow how surrealist activity, driven, as I have said, to ask itselfwhat were its proper resources, had in some way or another toreflect upon itself its realization, in 1925, of its relativeinsufficiency; how surrealist activity had to cease being content withthe results (automatic texts, the recital of dreams, improvisedspeeches, spontaneous poems, drawings and actions) which it hadoriginally planned; and how it came to consider these first results asbeing simply so much material, starting from which the problemof knowledge inevitably arose again under quite a new form.

As a living movement, that is to say a movement undergoing aconstant process of becoming and, what is more, solidly relying onconcrete facts, surrealism has brought together and is still bringingtogether diverse temperaments individually obeying or resisting avariety of bents. The determinant of their enduring or short-livedadherence is not to be considered as a blind concession to an inertstock of ideas held in common, but as a continuous sequence of actswhich, propelling the doer to more or less distant points, forces himfor each fresh start to return to the same starting-line. Theseexercises not being without peril, one man may break a limb or - forwhich there is no precedent - his head, another may peaceably submergehimself in a quagmire or report himself dying of fatigue. Unable asyet to treat itself to an ambulance, surrealism simply leaves theseindividuals by the wayside. Those who continue in the ranks are awareof course of the casualties left behind them. But what of it? Theessential is always to look ahead, to remain sure that one has notforfeited the burning desire for beauty, truth and justice, toilinglyto go onwards towards the discovery, one by one, of freshlandscapes, and to continue doing so indefinitely and withoutcoercion to the end, that others may afterwards travel the samespiritual road, unhindered and in all security. Penetration, tobe sure, has not been as deep as one would have wished. Poeticallyspeaking, a few wild, or shall we say charming, beasts whose criesfill the air and bar access to a domain as yet only surmised, arestill far from being exorcized. But for all that, the piercing of thethicket would have proceeded less tortuously, and those who are doingthe pioneering would have acquitted themselves with unabating tenacityin the service of the cause, if, between the beginning and the end ofthe spectacle which they provide for themselves and would be glad toprovide for others, a change had not taken place.

In 193(6), more than ever before, surrealism owes it to itself todefend the postulate of the necessity of change. It is amusing,indeed, to see how the more spiteful and silly of our adversariesaffect to triumph whenever they stumble on some old statement we mayhave made and which now sounds more or less discordantly in the midstof others intended to render comprehensible our present conduct. Thisinsidious manoeuvre, which is calculated to cast a doubt on our goodfaith, or at least on the genuineness of our principles, can easily bedefeated. The development of surrealism throughout the decade of itsexistence is, we take it, a function of the unrolling of historicalrealities as these may be speeded up between the period of reliefwhich follows the conclusion of a peace and the fresh outbreak of war.It is also a function of the process of seeking after new values inorder to confirm or invalidate existing ones. The fact that certain ofthe first participants in surrealist activity have thrown in thesponge and have been discarded has brought about the retiring fromcirculation of some ways of thinking and the putting into circulationof others in which there were implicit certain general dissents on theone hand and certain general assents on the other. Hence it is thatthis activity has been fashioned by the events. At the present moment,contrary to current biased rumour according to which surrealism itselfis supposed, in its cruelty of disposition, to have sacrificed nearlyall the blood first vivifying it, it is heartening to be able to pointout that it has never ceased to avail itself of the perfect teamworkof René Crevel, Paul Eluard, Max Ernst, Benjamin Péret,Man Ray, Tristan Tzara, and the present writer, all of whom can attestthat from the inception of the movement - which is also the date ofour enlistment in it - until now, the initial principle of theircovenant has never been violated. If there have occurred differenceson some points, it was essentially within the rhythmic scope of theintegral whole, in itself a least disputable element of objectivevalue. The others, they whom we no longer meet, can they say as much?They cannot, for the simple reason that since they separated from usthey have been incapable of achieving a single concerted action thathad any definite form of its own, and they have confined themselves,instead, to a reaction against surrealism with the greatest wastage tothemselves - a fate always overtaking those who go back on their past.The history of their apostasy and denials will ultimately be read intothe great limbo of human failings, without profit to any observer -ideal yesterday, but real today - who, called upon to make apronouncement, will decide whether they or ourselves have brought themore appreciable efforts to bear upon a rational solution of the manyproblems surrealism has propounded.

Although there can be no question here of going through the history ofthe surrealist movement - its history has been told many a time andsometimes told fairly well; moreover, I prefer to pass on as quicklyas possible to the exposition of its present attitude - I think Iought briefly to recall, for the benefit of those of you who wereunaware of the fact, that there is no doubt that before the surrealistmovement properly so called, there existed among the promoters of themovement and others who later rallied round it, very active, notmerely dissenting but also antagonistic dispositions which, between1915 and 1920, were willing to align themselves under the signboard ofDada. Post-war disorder, a state of mind essentially anarchicthat guided that cycle's many manifestations, a deliberate refusal tojudge - for lack, it was said, of criteria - the actual qualificationsof individuals, and, perhaps, in the last analysis, a certain spiritof negation which was making itself conspicuous, had brought about adissolution of the group as yet inchoate, one might say, by reason ofits dispersed and heterogeneous character, a group whose germinatingforce has nevertheless been decisive and, by the general consent ofpresent-day critics, has greatly influenced the course of ideas. Itmay be proper before passing rapidly - as I must - over this period, toapportion by far the handsomest share to Marcel Duchamp (canvases andglass objects still to be seen in New York), to Francis Picabia(reviews ``291'' and ``391''), Jacques Vaché (Lettres deGuerre) and Tristan Tzara (Twenty-five Poems, DadaManifesto 1918).

Strangely enough, it was round a discovery of language that there wasseeking to organize itself in 1920 what - as yet on a basis ofconfidential exchange - assumed the name of surrealism, a wordfallen from the lips of Apollinaire, which we had diverted from therather general and very confusing connotation he had given it. Whatwas at first no more than a new method of poetic writing broke awayafter several years from the much too general theses which had come tobe expounded in the Surrealist Manifesto - Soluble Fish,1924, the Second Manifesto adding others to them, wherebythe whole was raised to a vaster ideological plane; and so there hadto be revision.

In an article, ``Enter the Mediums,'' published inLittérature, 1922, reprinted in Les PasPerdus, 1924, and subsequently in the SurrealistManifesto, I explained the circumstance that had originally putus, my friends and myself, on the track of the surrealist activity westill follow and for which we are hopeful of gaining ever morenumerous new adherents in order to extend it further than we have sofar succeeded in doing. It reads:

It was in 1919, in complete solitude and at the approachof sleep, that my attention was arrested by sentences more or lesscomplete, which became perceptible to my mind without my being able todiscover (even by very meticulous analysis) any possible previousvolitional effort. One evening in particular, as I was about to fallasleep, I became aware of a sentence articulated clearly to a pointexcluding all possibility of alteration and stripped of all quality ofvocal sound; a curious sort of sentence which came to me bearing - insober truth - not a trace of any relation whatever to any incidents Imay at that time have been involved in; an insistent sentence, itseemed to me, a sentence I might say, that knocked at thewindow. I was prepared to pay no further attention to it when theorganic character of the sentence detained me. I was reallybewildered. Unfortunately, I am unable to remember the exact sentenceat this distance, but it ran approximately like this: ``A man is cutin half by the window.'' What made it plainer was the fact that it wasaccompanied by a feeble visual representation of a man in the processof walking, but cloven, at half his height, by a window perpendicularto the axis of his body. Definitely, there was the form, re-erectedagainst space, of a man leaning out of a window. But the windowfollowing the man's locomotion, I understood that I was dealing withan image of great rarity. Instantly the idea came to me to use it asmaterial for poetic construction. I had no sooner invested it withthat quality, than it had given place to a succession of all butintermittent sentences which left me no less astonished, but in astate, I would say, of extreme detachment.

Preoccupied as I still was at that time with Freud, and familiar withhis methods of investigation, which I had practised occasionally uponthe sick during the War, I resolved to obtain from myself what oneseeks to obtain from patients, namely a monologue poured out asrapidly as possible, over which the subject's critical faculty has nocontrol - the subject himself throwing reticence to the winds - andwhich as much as possible represents spoken thought. It seemedand still seems to me that the speed of thought is no greater thanthat of words, and hence does not exceed the flow of either tongue orpen. It was in such circumstances that, together with PhilippeSoupault, whom I had told about my first ideas on the subject, I beganto cover sheets of paper with writing, feeling a praiseworthy contemptfor whatever the literary result might be. Ease of achievement broughtabout the rest. By the end of the first day of the experiment we wereable to read to one another about fifty pages obtained in this mannerand to compare the results we had achieved. The likeness was on thewhole striking. There were similar faults of construction, the samehesitant manner, and also, in both cases, an illusion of extraordinaryverve, much emotion, a considerable assortment of images of a qualitysuch as we should never have been able to obtain in the normal way ofwriting, a very special sense of the picturesque, and, here and there,a few pieces of out and out buffoonery. The only differences which ourtwo texts presented appeared to me to be due essentially to ourrespective temperaments, Soupault's being less static than mine, and,if he will allow me to make this slight criticism, to his havingscattered about at the top of certain pages - doubtlessly in a spiritof mystification - various words under the guise of titles. I mustgive him credit, on the other hand, for having always forcibly opposedthe least correction of any passage that did not seem to me to bequite the thing. In that he was most certainly right.

It is of course difficult in these cases to appreciate at their justvalue the various elements in the result obtained; one may even saythat it is entirely impossible to appreciate them at a first reading.To you who may be writing them, these elements are, in appearance,as strange as to anyone else, and you are yourself naturallydistrustful of them. Poetically speaking, they are distinguishedchiefly by a very high degree of immediate absurdity, thepeculiar quality of that absurdity being, on close examination, theiryielding to whatever is most admissible and legitimate in the world:divulgation of a given number of facts and properties on the whole notless objectionable than the others.

The word "surrealism" having thereupon become descriptive of thegeneralizable undertaking to which we had devoted ourselves, I thoughtit indispensable, in 1924, to define this word once and for all:

SURREALISM, n. Pure psychic automatism, by which it isintended to express, verbally, in writing, or by other means, the realprocess of thought. Thought's dictation, in the absence of all controlexercised by the reason and outside all aesthetic or moralpreoccupations.

ENCYCL. Philos. Surrealism rests in the belief in the superiorreality of certain forms of association neglected heretofore; in theomnipotence of the dream and in the disinterested play of thought. Ittends definitely to do away with all other psychic mechanisms and tosubstitute itself for them in the solution of the principal problemsof life. Have professed absolute surrealism: Messrs. Aragon,Baron, Boiffard, Breton, Carrive, Crevel, Delteil, Desnos, Eluard,Gérard, Limbour, Malkine, Morise, Naville, Noll, Péret,Picon, Soupault, Vitrac.

These till now appear to be the only ones.... Were one to considertheir output only superficially, a goodly number of poets might wellhave passed for surrealists, beginning with Dante and Shakespeare athis best. In the course of many attempts I have made towards ananalysis of what, under false pretences, is called genius, I havefound nothing that could in the end be attributed to any other processthan this.

There followed an enumeration that will gain, I think, by beingclearly set out thus:

. . . Heraclitus is surrealist in dialectic. . . .
Swift is surrealist in malice.
Sade is surrealist in sadism. . . .
Baudelaire is surrealist in morals.
Rimbaud is surrealist in life and elsewhere. . . .
Carroll is surrealist in nonsense. . . .
Picasso is surrealist in cubism. . . .

They were not always surrealists - on this I insist - in the sensethat one can disentangle in each of them a number of preconceivednotions to which - very naïvely! - they clung. And they clung tothem so because they had not heard the surrealist voice, thevoice that exhorts on the eve of death and in the roaring storm, andbecause they were unwilling to dedicate themselves to the task of nomore than orchestrating the score replete with marvellous things. Theywere proud instruments; hence the sounds they produced were not alwaysharmonious sounds.

We, on the contrary, who have not given ourselves to processes offiltering, who through the medium of our work have been content to bethe silent receptacles of so many echoes, modest registering machines that are not hypnotized by the pattern that they trace,we are perhaps serving a yet much nobler cause. So we honestly giveback the talent lent to us. You may talk of the ``talent'' of thisyard of platinum, of this mirror, of this door and of this sky, if you wish.

We have no talent. . . .

The Manifesto also contained a certain number ofpractical recipes, entitled: ``Secrets of the Magic Surrealist Art,''such as the following:

Written Surrealist Composition or First and Last Draft.

Having settled down in some spot most conducive to the mind'sconcentration upon itself, order writing material to be brought toyou. Let your state of mind be as passive and receptive as possible.Forget your genius, talents, as well as the genius and talents ofothers. Repeat to yourself that literature is pretty well the sorriestroad that leads to everywhere. Write quickly without any previouslychosen subject, quickly enough not to dwell on, and not to be temptedto read over, what you have written. The first sentence will come ofitself; and this is self-evidently true, because there is never amoment but some sentence alien to our conscious thought clamours foroutward expression. It is rather difficult to speak of the sentence tofollow, since it doubtless comes in for a share of our consciousactivity and so the other sentences, if it is conceded that thewriting of the first sentence must have involved even a minimum ofconsciousness. But that should in the long run matter little, becausetherein precisely lies the greatest interest in the surrealistexercise. Punctuation of course necessarily hinders the stream ofabsolute continuity which preoccupies us. But you should particularlydistrust the prompting whisper. If through a fault ever so triflingthere is a forewarning of silence to come, a fault let us say, ofinattention, break off unhesitatingly the line that has become toolucid. After the word whose origin seems suspect you should place aletter, any letter, l for example, always the letter l,and restore the arbitrary flux by making that letter the initial ofthe word to follow.

I believe that the real interest of that book - there was no lack ofpeople who were good enough to concede interest, for which noparticular credit is due to me because I have no more than givenexpression to sentiments shared with friends, present and former -rests only subordinately on the formula above given. It is ratherconfirmatory of a turn of thought which, for good or ill, ispeculiarly distinctive of our time. The defence originally attemptedof that turn of thought still seems valid to me in what follows:

We still live under the reign of logic, but the methods oflogic are applied nowadays only to the resolution of problems ofsecondary in terest. The absolute rationalism which is still thefashion does not permit consideration of any facts but those strictlyrelevant to our experience. Logical ends, on the other hand, escapeus. Needless to say that even experience has had limits assigned toit. It revolves in a cage from which it becomes more and moredifficult to release it. Even experience is dependent on immediateutility, and common sense is its keeper. Under colour of civilization,under pretext of progress, all that rightly or wrongly may be regardedas fantasy or superstition has been banished from the mind, alluncustomary searching after truth has been proscribed. It is only bywhat must seem sheer luck that there has recently been brought tolight an aspect of mental life - to my belief by far the mostimportant - with which it was supposed that we no longer had anyconcern. All credit for these discoveries must go to Freud. Based onthese discoveries a current of opinion is forming that will enable theexplorer of the human mind to continue his investigations, justifiedas he will be in taking into account more than mere summary realities.The imagination is perhaps on the point of reclaiming its rights. Ifthe depths of our minds harbour strange forces capable of increasingthose on the surface, or of successfully contending with them, then itis all in our interest to canalize them, to canalize them first inorder to submit them later, if necessary, to the control of thereason. The analysts themselves have nothing to lose by such aproceeding. But it should be observed that there are no means designeda priori for the bringing about of such an enterprise, that until thecoming of the new order it might just as well be considered the affairof poets and scientists, and that its success will not depend on themore or less capricious means that will be employed. . . .

Interesting in a different way from the future of surrealisttechnics (theatrical, philosophical, scientific, critical)appears to me the application of surrealism to action. Whateverreservations I might be inclined to make with regard to responsibilityin general, I should quite particularly like to know how the firstmisdemeanours whose surrealist character is indubitable will bejudged. When surrealist methods extend from writing to action,there will certainly arise the need of a new morality to take theplace of the current one, the cause of all our woes.

The Manifesto of Surrealism has improved on the Rimbaudprinciple that the poet must turn seer. Man in general is goingto be summoned to manifest through life those new sentiments which thegift of vision will so suddenly have placed within his reach. . . .

Surrealism then was securing expression in all its purity and force.The freedom it possesses is a perfect freedom in the sense that itrecognizes no limitations exterior to itself. As it was said on thecover of the first issue of La RévolutionSurréaliste, ``it will be necessary to draw up a newdeclaration of the Rights of Man.'' The concept of surreality,concerning which quarrels have been sought with us repeatedly andwhich it was attempted to turn into a metaphysical or mystic rope tobe placed afterwards round our necks, lends itself no longer tomisconstruction, nowhere does it declare itself opposed to the need oftransforming the world which henceforth will more and more definitelyyield to it.

As I said in the Manifesto:

I believe in the future transmutation of those twoseemingly contradictory states, dream and reality, into a sort ofabsolute reality, of surreality, so to speak. I am looking forward toits consummation, certain that I shall never share in it, but deathwould matter little to me could I but taste the joy it will yieldultimately.

After years of endeavour and perplexities, when a variety of opinionshad disputed amongst themselves the direction of the craft in which anumber of persons of unequal ability and varying powers of resistancehad originally embarked together, the surrealist idea recovered in theSecond Manifesto all the brilliancy of which events hadvainly conspired to despoil it. It should be emphasized that theFirst Manifesto of 1924 did no more than sum up theconclusions we had drawn during what one may call the heroicepoch of surrealism, which stretches from 1919 to 1923. Theconcerted elaboration of the first automatic texts and our excitedreading of them, the first results obtained by Max Ernst in the domainof ``collage'' and of painting, the practice of surrealist``speaking'' during the hypnotic experiments introduced among us byRené Crevel and repeated every evening for over a year,uncontrovertibly mark the decisive stages of surrealist explorationduring this first phase. After that, up till the taking into accountof the social aspect of the problem round about 1925 (though notformally sanctioned until 1930), surrealism began to find itself aprey to characteristic wranglings. These wranglings account veryclearly for the expulsion orders and tickets-of-leave which, as wewent along, we had to deal out to certain of our companions of thefirst and second hour. Some people have quite gratuitously concludedfrom this that we are apt to overestimate personal questions.During the last ten years, surrealism has almost unceasingly beenobliged to defend itself against deviations to the right and to theleft. On the one hand we have had to struggle against the will ofthose who would maintain surrealism on a purely speculative level andtreasonably transfer it on to an artistic and literary plane (Artaud,Desnos, Ribemont-Dessaignes, Vitrac) at the cost of all the hope forsubversion we have placed in it; on the other, against the will ofthose who would place it on a purely practical basis, available at anymoment to be sacrificed to an ill-conceived political militancy(Naville, Aragon) - at the cost, this time, of what constitutes theoriginality and reality of its researches, at the cost of theautonomous risk that it has to run. Agitated though it was, the epochthat separates the two Manifestos was none the less a richone, since it saw the publication of so many works in which the vitalprinciples of surrealism were amply accounted for. . . .

It should be pointed out that in a number of declarations in LaRévolution et les Intellectuels. Que peuvent faire lessurréalistes? ( 1926), [Pierre Naville] demonstrated theutter vanity of intellectual bickerings in the face of the humanexploitation which results from the wage-earning system. Thesedeclarations gave rise amongst us to considerable anxiety and, attempting for the first time to justify surrealism's socialimplications, I desired to put an end to it in LégitimeDéfense. This pamphlet set out to demonstrate thatthere is no fundamental antinomy in the basis of surrealist thought.In reality, we are faced with two problems, one of which is theproblem raised, at the beginning of the twentieth century, by thediscovery of the relations between the conscious and the unconscious.That was how the problem chose to present itself to us. We were thefirst to apply to its resolution a particular method, which we havenot ceased to consider both the most suitable and the most likely tobe brought to perfection; there is no reason why we should renounceit. The other problem we are faced with is that of the social actionwe should pursue. We consider that this action has its own method indialectical materialism, and we can all the less afford to ignore thisaction since, I repeat, we hold the liberation of man to be thesine qua non condition of the liberation of the mind,and we can expect this liberation of man to result only from theproletarian Revolution. These two problems are essentially distinctand we deplore their becoming confused by not remaining so. There isgood reason, then, to take up a stand against all attempts to weldthem together and, more especially, against the urge to abandon allsuch researches as ours in order to devote ourselves to the poetry andart of propaganda. Surrealism, which has been the object of brutal andrepeated summonses in this respect, now feels the need of making somekind of counter-attack. Let me recall the fact that its verydefinition holds that it must escape, in its written manifestations,or any others, from all control exercised by the reason. Apart fromthe puerility of wishing to bring a supposedly Marxist control to bearon the immediate aspect of such manifestations, this control cannot beenvisaged in principle. And how ill-boding does this distrustseem, coming as it does from men who declare themselves Marxists, thatis to say possessed not only of a strict line in revolutionarymatters, but also of a marvellously open mind and an insatiablecuriosity!

This brings us to the eve of the Second Manifesto. Theseobjections had to be put an end to, and for that purpose it wasindispensable that we should proceed to liquidate certainindividualist elements amongst us, more or less openly hostile to oneanother, whose intentions did not, in the final analysis, appear asirreproachable, nor their motives as disinterested, as might have beendesired. An important part of the work was devoted to a statement ofthe reasons which moved surrealism to dispense for the future withcertain collaborators. It was attempted, on the same occasion, tocomplete the specific method of creation proposed six years earlier,and thoroughly to tidy up surrealist ideas. . . .

From 1930 until today the history of surrealism is that of successfulefforts to restore to it its proper becoming by graduallyremoving from it every trace both of political opportunism and ofartistic opportunism. The review La RévolutionSurréaliste, (12 issues) has been succeeded by another,Le Surréalisme au Service de la Révolution(6 issues). Owing particularly to influences brought to bear by newelements, surrealist experimenting. which had for too long beenerratic, has been unreservedly resumed; its perspectives and its aimshave been made perfectly clear; I may say that it has not ceased to becarried on in a continuous and enthusiastic manner. This experimentinghas regained momentum under the master-impulse given to it by SalvadorDali, whose exceptional interior ``boiling'' has been for surrealism,during the whole of this period, an invaluable ferment. As Guy Mangeothas very rightly pointed out in his History of Surrealism. . . Dali has endowed surrealism with an instrument of primaryimportance, in particular the paranoiac-critical method, which hasimmediately shown itself capable of being applied with equal successto painting, poetry, the cinema, to the construction of typicalsurrealist objects, to fashions, to sculpture and even, if necessary,to all manner of exegesis.

He first announced his convictions to us in La FemmeVisible (1930):

I believe the moment is at hand when, by a paranoiac andactive advance of the mind, it will be possible (simultaneously withautomatism and other passive states) to systematize confusion and thusto help to discredit completely the world of reality.

In order to cut short all possible misunderstandings, it shouldperhaps be said: ``immediate'' reality.

Paranoia uses the external world in order to assert itsdominating idea and has the disturbing characteristic of making othersaccept this idea's reality. The reality of the external world is usedfor illustration and proof, and so comes to serve the reality of ourmind.

Surrealism, starting fifteen years ago with a discovery that seemedonly to involve poetic language, has spread like wildfire, on pursuingits course, not only in art but in life. It has provoked new states ofconsciousness and overthrown the walls beyond which it wasimmemorially supposed to be impossible to see; it has - as is beingmore and more generally recognized - modified the sensibility, andtaken a decisive step towards the unification of the personality,which it found threatened by an ever more profound dissociation.Without attempting to judge what direction it will ultimately take,for the lands it fertilizes as it flows are those of surprise itself,I should like to draw your attention to the fact that its most recentadvance is producing a fundamental crisis of the ``object.'' Itis essentially upon the object that surrealism has thrown most lightin recent years. Only the very close examination of the many recentspeculations to which the object has publicly given rise (theoneiric object, the object functioning symbolically, the real andvirtual object, the moving but silent object, the phantom object, thediscovered object, etc.), can give one a proper grasp of theexperiments that surrealism is engaged in now. In order to continue tounderstand the movement, it is indispensable to focus one's attentionon this point.

I must crave your indulgence for speaking so technically, from theinside. But there could be no question of concealing any aspect ofthe persuasions to which surrealism has been and is still exposed. Isay that there exists a lyrical element that conditions for onepart the psychological and moral structure of human society, thathas conditioned it at all times and that will continue to conditionit. This lyrical element has until now, even though in spite of them,remained the fact and the sole fact of specialists. In thestate of extreme tension to which class antagonisms have led thesociety to which we belong and which we tend with all our strength toreject, it is natural and it is fated that this solicitationshould continue, that it should assume for us a thousand faces,imploring, tempting and eager by turns. It is not within our power, itwould be unworthy of our historic role to give way to thissolicitation. By surrealism we intend to account for nothing less thanthe manner in which it is possible today to make use of themagnificent and overwhelming spiritual legacy that has beenhanded down to us. We have accepted this legacy from the past, andsurrealism can well say that the use to which it has been put has beento turn it to the routing of capitalist society. I consider that forthat purpose it was and is still necessary for us to stand where weare, to beware against breaking the thread of our researches and tocontinue these researches, not as literary men and artists, certainly,but rather as chemists and the various other kinds of technicians. Topass on to the poetry and art called (doubtless in anticipation)proletarian: No. The forces we have been able to bring togetherand which for fifteen years we have never found lacking, have arrivedat a particular point of application: the question is not to knowwhether this point of application is the best, but simply to point outthat the application of our forces at this point has given us up to anactivity that has proved itself valuable and fruitful on the plane onwhich it was undertaken and has also been of a kind to engage us moreand more on the revolutionary plane. What it is essential to realizeis that no other activity could have produced such rich results, norcould any other similar activity have been so effective in combatingthe present form of society. On that point we have history on ourside.

A comrade, Claude Cahun, in a striking pamphlet published recently:Les Paris Sont Ouverts, a pamphlet that attempts topredict the future of poetry by taking account both of its own lawsand of the social bases of its existence, takes Aragon to task for thelack of rigour in his present position (I do not think anyone cancontest the fact that Aragon's poetry has perceptibly weakened sincehe abandoned surrealism and undertook to place him selfdirectly at the service of the proletarian cause, which leadsone to suppose that such an undertaking has defeated him and isproportionately more or less unfavourable to the Revolution).... It isof particular interest that the author of Les Paris SontOuverts has taken the opportunity of expressing himself fromthe ``historic'' point of view. His appreciation is as follows:

The most revolutionary experiment in poetry under thecapitalist regime having been incontestably, for France and perhapsfor Europe the Dadaist-surrealist experiment, in that it has tended todestroy all the myths about art that for centuries have permitted theideologic as well as economic exploitation of painting, sculpture,literature, etc. (e.g. the frottages of Max Ernst, which, amongother things, have been able to upset the scale of values ofart-critics and experts, values based chiefly on technical perfection,personal touch and the lastingness of the materials employed), thisexperiment can and should serve the cause of the liberation of theproletariat. It is only when the proletariat has become aware of themyths on which capitalist culture depends, when they have become awareof what these myths and this culture mean for them and have destroyedthem, that they will be able to pass on to their own properdevelopment. The positive lesson of this negating experiment, that isto say its transfusion among the proletariat, constitutes the onlyvalid revolutionary poetic propaganda.

Surrealism could not ask for anything better. Once the cause of themovement is understood, there is perhaps some hope that, on the planeof revolutionary militantism proper, our turbulence, our smallcapacity for adaptation, until now, to the necessary rules of a party(which certain people have thought proper to call our ``blanquism''),may be excused us. It is only too certain that an activity such asours, owing to its particularization, cannot be pursued within thelimits of any one of the existing revolutionary organizations: itwould be forced to come to a halt on the very threshold of thatorganization. If we are agreed that such an activity has above alltended to detach the intellectual creator from the illusions withwhich bourgeois society has sought to surround him, I for my part canonly see in that tendency a further reason for continuing ouractivity.

None the less, the right that we demand and our desire to make use ofit depend, as I said at the beginning, on our remaining able tocontinue our investigations without having to reckon, as for the lastfew months we have had to do, with a sudden attack from the forces ofcriminal imbecility. Let it be clearly understood that for us,surrealists, the interests of thought can not cease to go hand in handwith the interests of the working class, and that all attacks onliberty, all fetters on the emancipation of the working class and allarmed attacks on it cannot fail to be considered by us as attacks onthought likewise. I repeat, the danger is far from having beenremoved. The surrealists cannot be accused of having been slow torecognize the fact, since, on the very next day after the firstfascist coup in France, it was they amongst the intellectual circleswho had the honour of taking the initiative in sending out an Appel à la lutte,, which appeared on February 10th,1934, furnished with twenty-four signatures. You may rest assured,comrades, that they will not confine themselves, that already theyhave not confined themselves, to this single act.
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