Academic journal article Essays in French Literature and Culture

Ludicity in Surrealism and in Translation

Academic journal article Essays in French Literature and Culture

Ludicity in Surrealism and in Translation

Article excerpt

This article intends to bring to the fore the ludicity involved in Surrealist practices and productions, as well as demonstrate how this ludicity can be an integral part of the translation process and how the translation is received. This involves adopting a ludic and creative approach to translating Surrealism at a practical level. As a movement and group of artists and poets which formed a part of the European Avant-Garde, the Surrealists explored the use of ludicity in art and literature and integrated it in their productions. I will focus on ludic practices involving composition and decomposition processes and will translate two poems by André Breton: "Le Corset Mystère" and "L'Union libre". The nature of this approach to translating Surrealist poetry is both experimental and creative, which led me to transgress the medium and explore the possibilities offered by intermedial translation. This questions the definition of translation and the tasks of the translator which I discuss in the light of the works of Clive Scott, Susan Bassnett and Peter Bush. After redefining what the act of translating entails and acknowledging its inherent subjectivity, I will address the notions of faithfulness and creativity in translation and their evolution from their initial definitions.

Ludicity in the Surrealists' practices

The Surrealists explored the potential of the ludic to create experimental practice; ludicity appears at the forefront of their work. Indeed, Michel Murat claims that "[i]l est clair en effet que de tous les mouvements d'Avant-Garde, le surréalisme est celui qui a accordé la plus belle part au(x) jeu(x)" (Murat, 1993, 20). The ludic plays a crucial role in the activities of the group of artists and poets who met regularly and privileged it as a way of discussing and experimenting with various practices. Ludicity drives the Surrealist approach to various experimental research projects (on the object), surveys (on love and sexuality, and suicide), and events involving theatrical mises-en-scène such as the fake trials of Maurice Barrès and Anatole France.1 Some of their games stimulated productions or became productions in their own right. Surrealist playfulness was both an art of derision, mocking past and present authors like in their game -25/+20 for instance; and of potential hypotheses, which led to new practices and productions.2 Emmanuel Garrigues summarises the importance of the ludic: "[l]e jeu, dans le surréalisme, est bien plus qu'une activité; c'est aussi une attitude et une valeur, une façon de vivre et un mode d'être" (Garrigues, 1995, 9). In this article, I will focus on collage and free associations both derived from the ludic quality of automatism, a practice which was at the heart of Surrealism, as Breton states:

SURREALISME, n. m. Automatisme psychique pur par lequel on se propose d'exprimer, soit verbalement, soit par écrit, soit de toute autre manière, le fonctionnement réel de la pensée. Dictée de la pensée, en l'absence de tout contrôle exercé par la raison, en dehors de toute préoccupation esthétique ou morale. (Breton, 1988, 328)

Breton's initial definition dates back to 1924, during the early years of Surrealism when automatism as a practice played a central role in the Surrealists' experimentations and productions. Indeed, automatism led the Surrealists to automatic writing as well as to numerous games of question and answer, and the game of the cadavre exquis. This ludic activity was defined by André Breton and Paul Eluard in the Dictionnaire abrégé du surréalisme in these terms:

Jeu de papier plié qui consiste à faire composer une phrase ou un dessin par plusieurs personnes sans qu'aucune d'elles ne puisse tenir compte de la collaboration ou des collaborations précédentes. L'exemple, devenu classique, qui a donné son nom au jeu, tient dans la première phrase obtenue de cette manière - Le cadavre - exquis - boira - le vin - nouveau. (Breton, 1992, 796)

The cadavre exquis allows me to introduce a number of key Surrealist notions. …

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