André Breton and the Basic Concepts of Surrealism

André Breton and the Basic Concepts of Surrealism

André Breton and the Basic Concepts of Surrealism

André Breton and the Basic Concepts of Surrealism

Excerpt

What we ordinarily call life is only the mediocre side of reality. Man despairs because he fails to recognize the other side of existence, infinitely more vast, more beautiful. He is either unaware of it, or else he believes it inaccessible.

The dominant trait of modern civilization is that never before has man so rigorously cloistered himself within banality. He has come to look on ordinary appearances as the exclusive limits of reality: like the fox of the fable, he takes pride in a would-be positivism which, though he considers it a setting free, is in fact a self-mutilation. Although he cannot help feeling from time to time, in the depths of his being, the impulses of that cosmic mystery from which, all unknown to himself, he proceeds, he stifles these appeals like so many absurdities.

In this respect, the appearance of surrealism in the land of Descartes and of Voltaire, in the heart of a world enslaved by abstract philosophies and the classical arts, by a bourgeois mentality and a laborite economy, is an extraordinary phenomenon. Surrealism is, indeed, a radical revolt against that civilization. It demands not only an intellectual and artistic revolution but a social revolution as well and, above all, a total liberation of humanity.

It is self-evident that, at every point, surrealism goes beyond the conceptual framework of its adversaries, and even beyond these provisional means it uses to reach each stage of its development. The final goal of surrealism can be no less than the full satisfaction of its passionate thirst for total liberty. For the man who looks at it from the outside, surrealism is an" absurd monstrosity. But for anyone who has penetrated within, it is the most extraordinary of human revelations. The one thinks he has a monopoly on common sense, while the other knows the intoxication of entering into the unknown worlds of surreality -- not into the unreal, but into the heart of the real.

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