André Breton (1896 - 1966)

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André Breton (1896 - 1966)

Related: l'amour fou - French art - French literature - surrealism - literature

Key texts: What is Surrealism? (1934) - Anthology of Black Humor (1940)

André Breton is primarily known as the founding father of surrealism (though the term was coined by Guillaume Apollinaire); to me he is especially important as a connoisseur of literature in general and cult fiction in particular. He was infamous for his homophobia and his tyrannical traits. In 2929, with the publication of the Second Manifesto of Surrealism Breton "officially" expelled from the movement the dissident Surrealists Masson, Desnos, Boiffard, Artaud, Leiris, Queneau and most notably Georges Bataille. The latter responded with an essay titled "The Castrated Lion" in which he called Breton "a false chap who died of boredom in his absurd 'treasure lands', that's fine for religion, for little castrated men, little poets, mystical little yapping dogs." [Nov 2006]

Anthology of Black Humor (1940) - André Breton [] [FR] [DE] [UK] more ...


André Breton (February 18, 1896 - September 28, 1966) was a French writer, poet, and Surrealist theorist. His writings include the Surrealist Manifesto of 1924, in which he defined surrealism as pure psychic automatism.

Born into modest origins in Tinchebray (Orne) in Normandy, he began to study medicine without enthusiasm for the sake of his family. Mobilised to Nantes in 1916, he met Jacques Vaché there, the spiritual son of Alfred Jarry, a young man who lived his life like a work of art and committed suicide at age 24. Jacques Vaché would have considerable influence on Breton, even if all that remains are some war letters.

In 1919, Breton founded the review Littérature with Louis Aragon and Philippe Soupault. He also connected with Tristan Tzara (Dadaism). In Les Champs Magnétiques ("The Magnetic Fields"), a collaboration with Soupault, he put the principle of automatic writing into practice. He published the Surrealist Manifesto in 1924, and was editor of La Révolution surréaliste from 1924. A group coalesced around him: Philippe Soupault, Louis Aragon, Paul Éluard, René Crevel, Michel Leiris, and Robert Desnos.

Anxious to combine the "changing of life" of Rimbaud with the "transforming of the world" of Marx, Breton joined the Communist Party in 1927, from which he was expelled in 1933. Under his influence, surrealism became a European movement that touched all domains of art and deeply called into question the cause of human understanding and the types of views given to things and events.

Dissatisfied with the Vichy government, Breton sought refuge in America in 1941, and returned to Paris in 1946, where he continued to foster a second group of surrealists until his death, in the form of expositions or reviews (La Brèche, 1961-1965).

His works include a novel, Nadja (1928).

André Breton died in 1966 and was interred in the Cimetière des Batignolles in Paris.

Based on [Jan 2005]

Exquisite excrement: the Bataille-Breton polemic

by Elza Adamowicz

In May 1929, the Surrealist Michel Leiris records a conversation he had with Picasso. His diary entry reads:

Saw Picasso. Talked of the burlesque and of its equivalent with the marvelous (Reich). At the moment, there is no way one can consider an object as ugly or repulsive. Even shit is pretty.[1]

Leiris is raising here a fundamental question in the contemporary debate on aesthetics, concerning the materiality of the art object versus its transposition. I should like to explore a moment in this debate, by focusing on André Breton and Georges Bataille's texts on the artist Salvador Dali (1929-30). -- [Jan 2005]

See also: Georges Bataille

Nadja (1928) - André Breton

La beauté sera convulsive ou ne sera pas. -- André Breton, the last sentence of Nadja

Beauty will be convulsive or not at all.

Nadja (1928) - André Breton [] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Nadja is an influential book written by the French surrealist André Breton in 1928. It starts with the question "Who am I?"

It is based on Breton's interactions with an actual young woman (Nadja) over the course of 10 days, and is taken to be a semi-autobiographical description of his relationship with a mad patient of Pierre Janet. The book's non-linear structure is grounded in reality by references to other Paris surrealists such as Louis Aragon, and by 44 photographs.

The last line of the book provided the title for Pierre Boulez's flute concerto ...explosante-fixe...". -- [Aug 2006]

See also: mental illness - André Breton - 1928 - beauty

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