From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Two Surrealist Manifestos were issued by the Surrealist movement, in 1924 and 1929. The first was written by André Breton, the second was supervised by him. Breton drafted a third Surrealist manifesto which was never issued.
First manifesto (1924)
The first Surrealist manifesto was written by the French writer André Breton on October 15 1924 and released to the public in 1925. It was originally conceived as a preface to Breton's poetry collection Poisson soluble (Soluble Fish)
The document defines Surrealism as:
- Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express -- verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner -- the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by the thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.
The text includes numerous examples of the applications of Surrealism to poetry and literature, but makes it clear that the tenets of Surrealism can be applied in any circumstance of life, and is not merely restricted to the artistic realm. The importance of the dream as a reservoir of Surrealist inspiration is also highlighted.
Breton also discusses his initial encounter with the surreal in a famous description of a hypnagogic state that he experienced in which a strange phrase inexplicably appeared in his mind: There is a man cut in two by the window. This phrase echoes Breton's apprehension of Surrealism as the juxtaposition of two distant realities brought together to create a new, uncanny union.
The manifesto also refers to the numerous precursors of Surrealism that embodied the Surrealist spirit prior to his composing the manifesto, including such luminaries as the Marquis de Sade, Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, Lautréamont, Raymond Roussel, and even back as far as Dante.
The works of several of his contemporaries in developing the Surrealist style in poetry are also quoted, including texts by Philippe Soupault, Paul Éluard, Robert Desnos and Louis Aragon, among others.
- "I could spend my whole life prying loose the secrets of the insane. These people are honest to a fault, and their naiveté has no peer but my own."
- "We are still living under the reign of logic: this, of course, is what I have been driving at. But in this day and age logical methods are applicable only to solving problems of secondary interest."
- "Let us not mince words: the marvelous is always beautiful, anything marvelous is beautiful, in fact only the marvelous is beautiful."
- "Surrealism will usher you into death, which is a secret society. It will glove your hand, burying therein the profound M with which the word Memory begins."
- "Surrealism does not allow those who devote themselves to it to forsake it whenever they like. There is every reason to believe that it acts on the mind very much as drugs do; like drugs, it creates a certain state of need and can push man to frightful revolts."
- "In this realm as in any other, I believe in the pure Surrealist joy of the man who, forewarned that all others before him have failed, refuses to admit defeat, sets off from whatever point he chooses, along any other path save a reasonable one, and arrives wherever he can."
- "It is living and ceasing to live which are imaginary solutions. Existence is elsewhere."
List of proto-surrealists
- "In the course of the various attempts I have made to reduce what is, by breach of trust, called genius, I have found nothing which in the final analysis can be attributed to any other method than that."
- Young's Nights are Surrealist from one end to the other; unfortunately it is a priest who is speaking, a bad priest no doubt, but a priest nonetheless.
- Swift is Surrealist in malice,
- Sade is Surrealist in sadism.
- Chateaubriand is Surrealist in exoticism.
- Constant is Surrealist in politics.
- Hugo is Surrealist when he isn't stupid.
- Desbordes-Valmore is Surrealist in love.
- Bertrand is Surrealist in the past.
- Rabbe is Surrealist in death.
- Poe is Surrealist in adventure.
- Baudelaire is Surrealist in morality.
- Rimbaud is Surrealist in the way he lived, and elsewhere.
- Mallarmé is Surrealist when he is confiding.
- Jarry is Surrealist in absinthe.
- Nouveau is Surrealist in the kiss.
- Saint-Pol-Roux is Surrealist in his use of symbols.
- Fargue is Surrealist in the atmosphere.
- Vaché is Surrealist in me.
- Reverdy is Surrealist at home.
- Saint-Jean-Perse is Surrealist at a distance.
- Roussel is Surrealist as a storyteller.
In 1929 Breton asked Surrealists to assess their "degree of moral competence", and along with other theoretical refinements issued the Second manifeste du surréalisme. The proclaimation excluded Surrealists reluctant to commit to collective action: Leiris, Limbour, Morise, Baron, Queneau, Prévert, Desnos, Masson and Boiffard. They moved to the periodical Documents, edited by Georges Bataille, whose anti-idealist materialism produced a hybrid Surrealism exposed the base instincts of humans.
Breton drafted a third manifesto which was never issued.
- Art manifesto
- Manifestoes of Surrealism by André Breton, translated by Richard Seaver and Helen R. Lane. ISBN 0472061828