Anthology of Black Humor
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Anthology of Black Humor (1940, Anthologie de l'humour noir , Éditions du Sagittaire) is an anthology of 'black humor' texts edited and commented upon by André Breton. It is currently in print in a 1997 City Lights Books English translation by Mark Polizzotti.
Its original distribution was immediately banned by the Vichy goverment. It got reprinted in 1947 after Breton´s return from exile, with a few additions. In 1966, Breton, "having resisted the temptation to add more names", published the book again and this edition was called "the definitive" by the him.
The anthology not only introduced some until then almost unknown or forgotten writers, it also coined the term "black humor" (as Breton said, until then the term had meant nothing, unless someone imagined jokes about black people ). The term became globally used since then. The choice of authors was done entirely by Breton and according to his taste which he explains in the Foreword (called The Lightning Rod, a term suggested by Lichtenberg), a work of great depth that starts with contemplating Rimbaud´s words "Emanations, explosions." from Rimbaud´s last poem The barrack-room of night : Dream. The authors, each introduced by a preface by Breton and represented by a few pages from their writings, are sorted chronologically. The book is still in print. It was translated into several languages; into English by Mark Polizzotti in 1997.
Notes to the English translation
- This is the first publication in English of the anthology that contains Breton's definitive statement on l'humour noir, one of the seminal concepts of Surrealism, and his provocative assessments of the writers he most admired. While some of the authors featured in the Anthology of Black Humor are already well known to American readers-Swift, Kafka, Rimbaud, Poe, Lewis Carroll, and Baudelaire among them (and even then, Breton's selections are often surprising)-many others are sure to come as a revelation.
- The entries range from the acerbic aphorisms of Swift, Lichtenberg, and Duchamp to the theatrical slapstick of Christian Dietrich Grabbe, from the wry missives of Rimbaud and Jacques Vaché to the manic paranoia of Dali, from the ferocious iconoclasm of Alfred Jarry and Arthur Cravan to the offhand hilarity of Apollinaire at his most spontaneous. For each of the forty-five authors included, Breton has provided an enlightening biographical and critical preface, situating both the writer and the work in the context of black humor-a partly macabre, partly ironic, and often absurd turn of spirit that Breton defined as "a superior revolt of the mind."
- The translator Mark Polizzotti is the author of Revolution of the Mind: The Life of André Breton. --from the publisher (ISBN 0872863212)
Contents of the 1966 "definitive" edition
The anthology contains the following excerpts, each introduced by a commentary by Breton:
- Jonathan Swift: Directions to Servants, A Modest Proposal, A Meditation on a Broom-Stick; a few aphorisms;
- D.-A.-F.de Sade: Juliette
- Georg Christoph Lichtenberg: selected aphorisms.
- Charles Fourier: L'éléphant, le chien...
- Thomas de Quincey
- Pierre-François Lacenaire
- Petrus Borel: Marchand et voleur est synonyme
- Christian Dietrich Grabbe
- Edgar Allan Poe
- Xavier Forneret
- Charles Baudelaire
- Lewis Carroll
- Villiers de l'Isle-Adam
- Charles Cros
- Friedrich Nietzsche: Letter to Jacob Burckhardt (also published in The Portable Nietzsche)
- Isidore Ducasse (Comte de Lautréamont): excerpts from Maldor and Letters (Also published in Maldor and the Complete Works of the Comte de Lautreamont)
- Joris-Karl Huysmans
- Tristan Corbière: The Litany of Sleep (also published in the Centenary Corbiere)
- Germain Nouveau
- Arthur Rimbaud: excerpt from A Heart under a Cassok (also published in Completed Works, Selected Letters)
- Alphonse Allais
- Jean-Pierre Brisset
- O. Henry
- André Gide: Prometheus' Lecture (also published in Marshlands and Prometheus Misbound)
- John Millington Synge
- Alfred Jarry: The Debraining Song; and excerpts from Ubu Enchained, Act I, Scene II Le Champ de Mars (also published in The Ubu Plays)
- Raymond Roussel: excerpt from Impressions of Africa
- Francis Picabia
- Guillaume Apollinaire: Dramaturgy and Meetings (from The Poet Assassinated and Other Stories)
- Pablo Picasso
- Arthur Cravan
- Franz Kafka: excerpt from The Metamorphosis
- Jakob van Hoddis
- Marcel Duchamp: aphorisms (also found in The Writings of Marchel Duchamp)
- Hans Arp: Bestiary with no First Name
- Alberto Savinio: Introduction to a Life of Mercury (from Le lives of the Gods)
- Jacques Vaché
- Benjamin Péret: Death to the Pigs and other writings
- Jacques Rigaut
- Jacques Prévert
- Salvador Dalí
- Jean Ferry
- Leonora Carrington: The Debutante
- Gisèle Prassinos
- Jean-Pierre Duprey