THE HISTORY OF SURREALISM by Maurice Nadeau

THE HISTORY OF SURREALISM

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Surrealism, that curious child of Dada; Dada, that splendidly idiotic outgrowth of a defunct Symbolist tradition and the horrors of WWI. To give an idea of Dada, here is how Philippe Soupault characterized his colleagues: Aragon, the Glass Syringe, Breton, the Glass of Water in a Storm, and not to be outdone, Soupault, the Musical Urinal. Nor can we forget Tristan Tzara reading aloud on stage while a bell kept clanging clanging. Then things became a bit more serious; automatic writing took over. Surrealism preached Love and Revolution; its influence was immense; even Sartre, who didn't like it, grudgingly declared it ""the only poetic movement during the first half of the 20th century."" Nadeau's History of Surrealism is generally considered in France to be the classic account of the movement. Over twenty years old, the work has gone through three editions; it finally reaches us accompanied by a perceptive and quite judicious introduction from Roger Shattuck. The book is a trenchant, exciting, sometimes brilliant, usually partisan exposition of theories, platforms, disputes, anecdotes, shifting social, political and esthetic events. Breton is the crucial figure throughout, a man of prodigious, puzzling vitality, constantly expanding, pushing consciousness to its most visionary edge, liberating subjectivity, life, language, art. Eluard, Artaud, Aragon, Dali appear with their conflicting relationships. The book arrives at an opportune moment, for surely anti-theatre, pop art, ""happenings,"" etc., are all indebted to the surrealist temper. Reading Nadeau, both the past and present become startlingly illuminated.

Publisher: Macmillan