THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF SURREALISM by Marcel--Ed. Jean

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF SURREALISM

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Paraphrasing Shakespeare, Lautremont once said, ""All the waters of the sea could not wash away an intellectual bloodstain""--and Jean's anthology of surrealist writings (poems, prose, plays, critiques) bears witness. The autobiography should be Andre Breton's, for except for piquant selections from Picabia, Chirico, and Arp (all primarily visual artists, interestingly), it's Breton and his endless manifestoes that rule here--and in surrealism as a movement. Breton's hectoring, strangely joyless, and extremely formal voice is heard again and again. Whether he's recommending automatic writing, game techniques, such as ""the exquisite corpse"" (where different people, unaware of each others' contributions, jointly write a poem), or a dream's ability to ""introduce in our mind the marvelous deflowered sponge of gold,"" there's no doubt that the word of interest is ""mind."" Breton, as is seen in his writings, was a Cartesian, even basically a rationalist; he guards his theories too jealously to convince us otherwise. Beyond this main figure, a cleric in clown's maskery, the other surrealist writers are mostly small beer, jugs of which you get from editor Jean, an enthusiast and contributor to surrealist journals himself, whose editorial captaincy seems more intent on serving up questionable pieties and old misconceptions--Rimbaud and Sade as protosurrealists; Chirico as a betrayer of his own genius in the late work--than in providing an intelligent balance. Why is surrealist painting so much more interesting than its corollary texts? You'll never find out here, in this weak addition to the generally creditable Documents of 20th-century Art series.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1979
Publisher: Viking