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An insider's history of surrealism by a friend of AndrÉ Breton, Salvador Dali, Magritte, and Max Ernst, to name a few of the influential artists Andrews (Voltaire, 1981) amusingly brings to life in his memory book. Andrews nimbly juxtaposes discussions of personality, aesthetics, gossip, and history to paint a caustic portrait of this century's wisest--if most scatterbrained--movement in art and literature. At the center is AndrÉ Breton, surrealism's bemused leader and ""a perpetual adolescent"" who maintained ""the most sinister patience in urging the claims of the irrational on our rational world."" Understandably so, because only the derangement of all the senses provided sufficient escape from the stifling middle-class life Breton was born into. Andrews demonstrates that the flight from philistinism was a typical pattern among the surrealists, whose attempts to shock the world often sprang from a too comfortable childhood. What better way to repay one's parents than by scandal and anticlericalism? Andrews shrewdly understands that it is probably impossible to separate surrealism's genuine search for a new art form from this kind of exhibitionism. ""Naked thoughts and naked emotions are as vital as naked women, ""Breton once commented. ""It is our duty to undress them."" Why has Salvador Dali's artistic reputation outlived his one for notorious publicity? Why were the surrealists such a morbid lot? If Andrews doesn't search too deeply for answers to such questions, he does know how to re-create crucial freshness of vision that the movement so much admired. A valuable book--full of the color and contradiction the surrealists themselves so much admired.

Pub Date: May 31st, 1990
ISBN: 0811211266
Publisher: New Directions