From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
It is based on Breton's interactions with an actual young woman (Léona Delcourt) over the course of 10 days, and is taken to be a semi-autobiographical description of his relationship with a mental 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...".
Taken from the back cover of the Grove Press Edition: Originally published in France in 1928, it is the first and perhaps best surrealist romance ever written, a book which defined that movement's attitude toward everyday life. The principal narrative is an account of the author's relationship with a girl in the city of Paris, the story of an obsessional presence haunting his life.
The Nadja of the book, like Bertrand Russell's definition of electricity as "not so much a thing as a way things happen," Nadja is not so much a person as the way she makes people behave. She has been described as a state of mind, a feeling about reality, a kind of vision, and reader sometimes wonders whether she exists at all. Yet it is Nadja who gives form and structure to the novel. "Nadja is so wonderfully free from all regard for appearance that she scorns reason and law alike," is the way Simone de Beauvoir describes her.
Quotations from Nadja
- "Don't I love her? When I am near her I am nearer things which are near her."