Surrealpolitik

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  1. "I Zimbra"'s origin encodes Fear of Music's motifs in one other sense: the Dada movement itself was a response to "life during wartime." The european aftermath of the Great War seemed to dwarf all attempts at humane commemoration or remorse; trench warfare and mustard gas and shellshock were the language Hugo Ball and his fellow Dadaists sought to overwrite with their avant-gibberish.

    Source: Fear of Music, p. 9
  2. "The false Paris has the good taste to recognize that nothing is more useless or more immoral than a riot. Though it may gain the upper hand for a few minutes, it is quelled for several centuries." Paul-Ernest de Rattier, Paris n'existe pas (Paris, 1857), p.62. [E8,2]

    Source: The Arcades Project, p. 138
  3. 'Politics without party' means that politics does not spring from or originate in the party. It does not stem from that synthesis of theory and practice that represented, for Lenin, the Party. Politics springs from real situations, from what we can say and do in these situations. And so in reality there are political sequences, political processes, but these are not totalized by a party that would be simultaneously the representation of certain social forces and the source of politics itself.

    Source: Ethics, p. 96
  4. How German Is It is certainly not a terrorist attack. What it does do is present an effective engagement with issues of postmodernism, history, and culture that are implicated in terrorism's impact. As Sadie Plant has argued, the postmodern writings of Baudrillard and Lyotard in particular are 'underwritten by situationist theory and the social and cultural agitations in which it is placed'. Moreover, Baudrillard, Lyotard, and Jameson all invoke terrorism when characterizing dominant tendencies of contemporary culture.

    Source: Terrorism and Modern Literature, p. 233
  5. The Good Terrorist [by Doris Lessing], in short, is an object lesson in the problematic relationship between realistic novels and terrorism, a relationship grounded in the author's anxiety about the efficacy, the power and clarity, of language. Terrorists, she implies, can teach us a great deal about the failures of novelists.

    Source: Plotting Terror, p. 75
  6. After the rupture with the PCF as recorded in the still magnificent document 'Du temps que les surréalistes avaient raison' (1935), the Surrealists joined with Georges Bataille in 1935 to form a radical left non-party formation named Contre-Attaque: Union de luttes des intellectuels révolutionnaires, not only to challenge the Party but to explore 'the continuation of politics by other means' (Bataille). in so doing, both Bataille and Beton are clear that the creation of the Front Popular in 1935 would not in itself be sufficient to bring about the kind of radical transformation of values that would alone suffice: it is not merely a rejection of capitalism and the bourgeoisie that would be required, but a fundamental change in the values and conceptions of reason that had informed Western and European self-understanding, the very values which, Nietasche and Valéry had argued in a manner definitive for the Surrealist generation, were also the basis of European nihilism.

    From chapter: Failure and Community: Preliminary Questions on the Political in the Culture of Surrealism, M. Stone-Richards
    Source: Surrealism, Politics and Culture, p. 302
  7. Among the things that distinguished us from the New and Used Left was the fact that we laughed not only at the society of scissorbills and squares, but also at ourselves. We also realized that The Revolution itself was funny. I am absolutely serious. What on Earth could be funnier than overturning 500-odd years of capitalist slavery?

    Source: Dancin' in the Streets, p. 33
  8. An admirable poem by a despicable person seemed contradictory. Possibly it is, but it does not follow that the best one must expect from a pure person is poetry.

    Source: The Absence of Myth, p. 50
  9. Art enabled the individual to resist society not simply by challenging popular tastes and perceptions, or so Lukács argued, but by intensifying experience through its allegorical and symbolic qualities...The artist in Lukács new and broader definition of the term now appears as a "problematical man." Not the political revolutionary but the erudite cultural radical with a bohemian bent -- like Nietzsche -- is the agent of the new: the prophet of an invigorated subjectivity, an emergent culture, and a transformed reality.

    Source: Critical Theory, p. 79
  10. As per the brave actions taken by professional bodies in anthropology and -- belatedly -- psychology against their co-optation by the US war machine (see AAA, 2006; APA, 2009), we should shame universities for their role in electronic-game militarism...We must all work to counter DARPA's ideological incorporation of untenured faculty, whom it seeks to engage via the 'Young Faculty Award'. The goal is 'to develop the next generation of academic scientists, engineers and mathematicians in key disciplines who will focus a significant portion of their career on D[epartment] o[f] D[efense] and national security issues' (DARPA, n.d.). Faculty in other countries should boycott military-endowed US universities and researchers if we fail to contest these murderous paymasters. The task is massive, and it will require people with progressive politics to collaborate as never before. They must do so with an appreciation of the history of imperialism, the experience of militarization, the play of games and the complicity of higher education.

    From chapter: Terrorism and Global Popular Culture by Toby Miller
    Source: Media & Terrorism: Global Perspectives, p. 110-111
  11. Breton...raises the stakes of Nadja's momentary recourse to cold-blooded murder in stating that "the simplest surrealist act consists of dashing down into the street, pistol in hand, and firing blindly, as fast as you can pull the trigger, into the crowd."...The difficult part of revolution is not its violence; indeed, Breton suggests that violence is all too simple. What is difficult is the full realization of a project of emancipation that extends to all facets of life, and that places the most extreme demands on its practitioners. Revolution, Breton writes in the Second Manifesto, requires the kind of commitment to the overthrow of bourgeois capitalism that can be experienced only as a despair so strong as to render extremism imaginable...Breton's most notorious statement, in other words, invokes murder not as an extension of surrealism's alleged methodism into the field of political violence, but as the hypothetical extreme that Breton claims to be the measure of surrealism's refusal to operate simply as a method, whether aesthetic, epistemological, or political.

    Source: Surrealism and the Art of Crime, p. 149-150
  12. Breton...writes: "The simplest Surrealist act consists of dashing down into the street, pistol in hand, and firing blindly, as fast as you can pull the trigger, into the crowd. Anyone who, at least once in his life, has not dreamed of thus putting an end to the petty system of debasement and cretinization in effect has a well-defined place in that crowd, with his belly at barrel level." Interpretations of these lines from the Second Manifesto have fueled attacks against surrealism in general, most notably Jean-Paul Sartre's charge that the movement, like Breton's statement, represented a feeble attempt to organize "revolution" around the inner dictates of the individual -- a vulgar and politically bankrupt fusion of Leninist and Freudian rhetoric. Yet Breton is not invoking the "inner dictates of the individual," nor is he simply mobilizing this act of terror as a rhetorical flourish. He means it literally, but stresses that "my intention is not to recommend it above every other because it is simple, and to try and pick a quarrel with me on this point is tantamount to asking, in bourgeois fashion, any nonconformist why he doesn't commit suicide, or any revolutionary why he doesn't pack up and go live in the USSR." Surrealism's struggle lay in reconciling its radical break from the "ideology of continuity" with its awareness that even radicalism tends toward the continuous and the familiar whenever it expresses itself in forms, such as gunshots, that are merely extensions of preexisting violence...

    The group's analyses and debates about the status of violence in the modern world extended to the very question of using revolutionary violence as a political strategy. To what extent could political violence ever be distinguished from crime? How did anti colonial violence differ from terrorism, from ethnic cleansing, or from colonial wars of invasion? Such questions, central to the activities of the surrealist group throughout the movement's history, show the surrealists' dedication to a public intellectualism that confronted the most fundamental principles of revolution and avant-gardism.

    Source: Surrealism and the Art of Crime, p. 7
  13. But whatever else it does, The Possessed proves nothing of the kind that might be accessible to proof in "a mere pamphlet."...[T]he political novel is engaged in a task of persuasion which is not really its central or distinctive purpose. I find it hard to imagine, say, a serious socialist being dissuaded from his belief by a reading of The Possessed, though I should like equally to think that the quality and nuance of that belief can never be quite as they were before he read The Possessed.

    Source: Politics and the Novel, p. 22
  14. Crevel's "scandalous" tales [i.e., his explicit mediumistic outpourings] were suppressed, I argue, because they confronted the proto-surrealists with their own reluctance to address the ethical implications of their newly developed practices...Even after his reconciliation with the surrealists in late 1924, Crevel would remain critical of "automatism" and automatic writing, as well as, more tacitly, the movement's Desnosian predilection [i.e., quasi-mystical posing]. For Crevel this was no jealous retribution but a serious accusation that revealed his commitment to understanding avant-garde experimentation as an extension of lived experience, of politics, and of intellectual practice.

    Source: Surrealism and the Art of Crime, p. 62,63
  15. Despite battles with landlords, harassment by tourists, and mounting police terror, the Beats and their allies -- old-time hoboes, jazz musicians, oyster pirates, prostitutes, drug-addicts, winos, homosexuals, bums and other outcasts -- maintained a vital community based on mutual aid, and in which being different was an asset rather than a liability.

    Source: Dancin' in the Streets, p. 9
  16. Despite systematic and largely successful attempts to manage 'official' representations of terrorism, dissonances keep appearing...The 'war on terror' frame is hardly convincing when significant parts of the Arab world are spilling onto the streets demanding democracy and not jihad. Additionally, in the new digital media landscape where alternative messages travel globally and instantaneously...the mediation of terrorism is likely to become more multi-layered and multi-lingual...However, a word of caution is in order. Apart from global media conglomerates such as Google and Facebook, with their formidable power over the aggregation and distribution of information, governments are determined to ensure that they control the global commons.

    From chapter: Introduction
    Source: Media & Terrorism: Global Perspectives, p. 14
  17. Despite [Breton and Trotsky's] effort to find a common platform in 'For An Independent Revolutionary Art', one that would combine theory and practice, what begins to emerge instead, both in the manifesto and in other related essays, are the fundamental differences in their basic conceptions of imperialist capitalism and how to combat it in order to set up a socialist sate...[Surrealism's] interactions with trotskyist groups...stem back to the heated arguments between Breton and Pierre Naville in the mid-1920s. Saville, originally a member of Breton's coterie, left Surrealism for the Communist Party in 1926 after experiencing one of Breton's notorious personal attacks. That year he published a pamphlet, La Révolution et les intellectuals. Que peuvent-faire les Surréalistes?, in which he argued that Surrealism and Marxism were incompatible, as the Surrealists were too individualist and bourgeois to contribute to the collective, 'disciplined action of class struggle' necessary to overthrow capitalism. Breton responded in December 1926 with Légitime défense, which rebutted not only Naville's attack but also the refusal of the entire Communist Party to take Surrealism seriously.

    From chapter: Robin Adele Greeley, For an Independent Revolutionary Art: Breton, Trotsky and Cárdenas's Mexico
    Source: Surrealism, Politics and Culture, p. 205-206
  18. Dirty, dark, loud and hysteric, the 1938 Exposition's substitution of interference and disorientation for the traditional orderliness of the exhibition space touched on more than simply aesthetic issues. Without banners, slogans or explicit political declarations, the Surrealists' idiosyncratic installation defined a form of ideological critique that concentrated on the disruptive potential of process, ephemerality, instability and visual frustration against the period's exhibitionary commonplace of stasis, solidity, sanity and visual primacy. However, the failure of scholars to see the prewar show as anything more than an aesthetic or anti-aesthetic event stems at least in part from a failure to adequately treat the spatial and performative dimensions of Surrealism, even as these dimensions arguably fostered the movement's most provocative and ideologically charged work of the period. As the movement's 1938 staging recast the bourgeois eighteenth-century interior of the Parisian gallery in which it was housed, it also pointed to what museological spaces of the day hid: that walls were not neutral, that display strategies were not objective, and that careful taxonomies and rooms enfilade held up the fragile foundations of national chauvinism, authoritative rule and art history alike.

    From chapter: Elena Filipovic, Surrealism in 1938: The Exhibition at War
    Source: Surrealism, Politics and Culture, p. 181
  19. Ecological awareness and a specifically wilderness-inspired radicalism were central to the two principal sources of the Rebel Worker perspective: the IWW and surrealism.

    Source: Dancin' in the Streets, p. 42
  20. Everything that allowed the genius of a people to assert itself bent more and more under the pressure of hostile forces, more or less disguised. Whatever could have been added to its assets -- the fundamental code of this people as, like it or not, it arose from its institutions -- was left in the shadows out of fear that the concept of liberty, which doesn't take well to resting, might become more demanding.

    Source: Arcanum 17, p. 125
  21. For both the writer and the reader, the political novel provides a particularly severe test: politics rakes our passions as nothing else, and whatever we may consent to overlook in reading a novel, we react with an almost demonic rapidity to a detested political opinion. For the writer the great test is, how much truth can he force through the sieve of his opinions? For the reader the great test is, how much of that truth can he accept though it jostle his opinions?

    Source: Politics and the Novel, p. 24
  22. Foucault's work...allows us to formulate, and ultimately challenge, one deeply held tenet of literary romanticism, the alliance between the writer and the revolutionary. Traces of this alliance, which writers such as Byron, Hugo, Thoreau, and Lamartine exemplified for the nineteenth century, are still visible today. We find them in the very phrase "creative writing," in our tolerance, even encouragement, of eccentric or self-destructive behavior in writers; every story of a poet locked up or executed in Nigeria or Iraq confirms our sense that writers are enemies of tyranny. Yet the idea of the writer as revolutionary implies an extraordinary faith in that writer's power to act in the social world. The unacknowledged legislator of mankind must articulate a vision of a better world and set it down in unambiguous language, must persuade many readers to accept that vision as authoritative, and, moreover, must motivate them to act in ways that ensure change.

    Source: Plotting Terror, p. 4
  23. From ancient times the witches had danced in the cavern through wars and persecutions; many a time when I was pursued I would hide with the witches, and was always received with courtesy and kindness. As you are no doubt aware, my mission through the ages has been to carry uncensored news to the people, without consideration of either rank or status. This has made me unpopular with the authorities all over this planet. My object is to help human beings to realize their state of slavery and exploitation by power-seeking beings.

    Source: The Hearing Trumpet, p. 145
  24. From examples that Benjamin presents of this graphicness in action in the "dialectical image," as in his "One Way Street," we can see that such images are created by the author but are also already formed, or half-formed, so to speak, latent in the world of the popular imagination, awaiting the fine touch of the dialectical imagician's wand -- not unlike Victor Turner's description of the central African herbalist and curer whose adze, in chopping bark off the chosen tree, arouses the slumbering power of material already there awaiting the copula of the magician's touch..

    This notion of the activist acting on something ready to be activated is well conveyed where Benjamin writes that "opinions are to the vast apparatus of social existence what oil is to machines: one does not go up to a turbine and pour oil over it; one applies a little to hidden spindles and joints that one has to know."

    But how does one know?

    Source: Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man, p. 370
  25. Germany in [How German Is It] is not simply a 'human invention', then, nor is it reducible to terrors of the past or present. Similarly, the terrorism depicted in [the novel] cannot simply be reduced to a media construction, or a state fabrication, or the detonation of a bomb by a group of radicals, for all these things are implicated in a more general topography. Inhabiting an ironic space in this topography of everyday life, Abish has stated that he endeavours to stake out a utopic field of resistance in his fiction.

    Source: Terrorism and Modern Literature, p. 231-232
  26. He knew that surprise does not become the magician, and is indeed apt to be fatal, for in that momentary loss of guard any attack upon the adept may succeed.

    Source: All Hallows' Eve, p. 92
  27. Hegel believed that progress is ultimately furthered by the person who is out of step with the majority. Only this person, the genuine nonconformist, really experiences the constraints on freedom. Only this person is in the position of questioning the prevailing understandings of happiness. For Hegel, indeed, the "unhappy consciousness" is the source of progress.

    Source: Critical Theory, p. 77
  28. Here due weight must be given to the insight that in the Traité du style, Aragon's last book, required a distinction between metaphor and image, a happy insight into questions of style that needs extending. Extension: nowhere do these two -- metaphor and image -- collide so drastically and so irreconcilably as in politics. For to organize pessimism means nothing other than to expel moral metaphor from politics and to discover in political action a sphere reserved one hundred per cent for images. This image sphere, however, can no longer be measured out by contemplation.

    Source: Surrealism: the Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia, p. 55
  29. Himes's realization that his own social protest novels were themselves entangled in this equilibrium of falsehoods coincides with his abandonment of this form of writing. As he explains in My Life of Absurdity, his turn to a genre in which violence is neither the stuff of tragedy nor perpetually looming as the burden of an ironic fate was itself a protest against the protest novel. Himes writes: "i wanted to break through the barrier that labeled me as a 'protest writer.' I knew the life of an American black needed another image than just the victim of racism." The violence with which Himes populates his detective fiction thus represents a twofold adjustment: first, its multiplication of falsehood within a Harlem teeming with crime and deception gives free rein to the exploration of the "unconscious" desires of Himes's previous novels, which are given no opportunity to distinguish between different kinds of violence...Second, Himes's crime fiction abandons his earlier frustration with the ideological circuit of absurdity and instead embraces it to the extent that these conditions, though oppressive, nevertheless constitute the imaginative fabric of African American life and vernacular culture. Certainly in La Reine des pommes Himes embraces the jokes, dozens, and witticisms, he implicitly condemns in If He Hollers. This double adjustment constitutes Himes's rejection of both Wright's and Sartre's notions of engaged writing in favor of an indulgently disengaged dark humor; removing the responsibility for "real" political action from its presumed place immediately manifest within the text, this humor leaves the question of violent rebellion to simmer in the imagination.

    Source: Surrealism and the Art of Crime, p. 260-261
  30. How to persuade the reader that the actual direction of contemporary politics is toward a political system the very opposite of what the political leadership, the mass media, and think tank oracles claim that it is, the world's foremost exemplar of democracy?

    Source: Democracy Inc., p. xx
  31. In combining issues of terrorism, Holocaust memory, and narrative, Abish's How German Is It certainly educes the salient antagonisms of the period. Yet I would argue that it also engages directly in the entwining of discourse and violence, memory and performance, that I have been discussing to produce its own image of fiction's potential for intervention. Towards the end of the fourth and penultimate part of the novel, 'Sweet truth', the narrator raises the question: 'Can only revolutions undermine the tyranny of the familiar day-to-day events?'

    Source: Terrorism and Modern Literature, p. 222-223
  32. In some respects the Anti-Poetry Club could be considered the last bow of Maywood Rhapsodism, but it was also the nucleus from which the Rebel Worker group soon emerged. The Club was a souped-up Chicago-style mix of surrealism, Bugs Bunny, the Marx Brothers, Ernie Kovacs, Stan Freberg, and Bob Kaufman's Abomunism, but so heavily spiced with our own humor and revolt that it had a distinctive "flavor" all its own...

    After a few meetings, however, it was clear that the Club had nowhere to go--that every meeting would be the same, that the Anti-Poetry Club was getting to be as boring as the Poetry Club...Several of us circulated a statement dissociating ourselves from those who had turned the Club into a repetitious farce devoid of even the slightest subversive quality.

    Source: Dancin' in the Streets, p. 16
  33. In such passages in Breton, photography intervenes in a very strange way. It makes the streets, gates, squares of the city into illustrations of a trashy novel, draws off the banal obviousness of this ancient architecture to inject it with the most pristine intensity toward the events described, to which, as in old chambermaids' books, word-for-word quotations with page numbers refer. And all the parts of Paris that appear here are places where what is between these people turns like a revolving door.

    Source: Surrealism: the Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia, p. 51
  34. In the end, the Surrealists' move toward a rethinking of the exhibition space in 1938 caused little more than temporary local derangement. Misunderstood in its day, Surrealism's dirt was easy to sweep up, the blackened gallery walls quickly repainted white. A cartoon from the period epitomizes the problem: the exhibition's public recognized the disorder as nothing more than impotence; for them, the gallery and everything it represented remained unscathed by the Surrealist intervention. But, perhaps this misunderstanding stemmed from a deeper and more problematic relationship of artistic production and politics. For visitors who were disappointed that the Surrealists had not filled the exhibition with anti-fascist banners or explicit signs of their ideological engagement had good reason to lament: hysteric and ridiculously prankish, the Surrealist exhibition did leave a certain notion of politics behind. And, perhaps therein lies the 1938 Exposition's ultimate force: its refusal of the traditional forms of organized politics...[I]t was not about putting the gallery's white walls in the 'service of the revolution' -- it was a matter of insisting on a consciousness of an exhibition's walls and of the body as impacted by them. All the better to point -- if only temporarily, if only impotently --- to the imbrication of these walls and these bodies in the politics of power.

    From chapter: Elena Filipovic, Surrealism in 1938: The Exhibition at War
    Source: Surrealism, Politics and Culture, p. 202-203
  35. It is one thing for an undertaking to be possible and another for it to be just. Knowledge is no longer the subject, but in the service of the subject: its only legitimacy (though it is formidable) is the fact that it allows morality to become reality. This introduces a relation of knowledge to society and the State which is in principle a relation of the means to the end. But scientists must cooperate only if they judge that the politics of the State, in other words the sum of its prescriptions, is just. If they feel that the civil society of which they are members is badly represented by the State, they may reject its prescriptions. This type of legitimation grants them the authority, as practical human beings, to refuse their scholarly support to a political power they judge to be unjust, in other words, not grounded in a real autonomy. They can even go so far as to use their expertise to demonstrate that such autonomy is not in fact realized in society and the State. This reintroduces the critical function of knowledge. But the fact remains that knowledge has no final legitimacy outside of serving the goals envisioned by the practical subject, the autonomous collectivity.

    Source: The Postmodern Condition, p. 36
  36. It's simply not true that you can participate in a system as powerful and as ramified as parliamentarism without a real subjective commitment to it. In any case, the facts speak for themselves. None of the parties which have engaged in the parliamentary system and won governing power has escaped what I would call the subjective law of 'democracy', which is, when all is said and done, what Marx called an 'authorized representative' of capital. And I think that this is because, in order to participate in electoral or governmental representation, you have to conform to the subjectivity it demands -- that is, a principle of continuity, the principle of the politique unique -- the principle of 'this is the way it is, there is nothing to be done', the principle of Maastricht, of a Europe in conformity with the financial markets, and so on. In France we've known this for a long time, for again and again, when left-wing parties come to power, they bring with them the themes of disappointment, broken promises, and so forth. I think we need to see this as an inflexible law, not as a matter of corruption. I don't think it happens because people change their minds, but because parliamentary subjectivity compels it.

    Source: Ethics, p. 99
  37. Like Freud's depiction of the dream-work as the condensed and distorted projection of unconscious wishes, Desnos's poetic and cinematic marvelous eluded the conventional censorship of commercial narratives. It described instead a space beyond good and evil that Desnos attempted, in turn, to reconcile with the real. This reconciliation, he argues in a 1924 essay, is the "revolutionary" goal of surrealism, and, more specifically, of surrealist ethics as "the sense of life and not the observance of human laws." Yet whereas Breton argued for the inextricability of socioeconomic revolution from a surrealist liberation of the mind, Desnos's understanding of revolution privileged the latter aim...Desnos writes:

    "They are a gang -- from the priest to the professor -- who invoke the spirit, who make a living from it, and who make it serve the lowest ends. It's against them, and against this deformed spirit, that the surrealists mean to fight. 'You claim to ruin bourgeois painting and yet you make paintings. Go and destroy the Louvre,' people told me on the way out of the surrealist exhibition. If we destroyed the paintings in the Louvre we would be individualists. Likewise you don't just go out and shoot fascist delegates. But you fight the capitalist spirit. Right now it's less a matter of carrying out revolution than of preparing for a battle of opinion."

    Source: Surrealism and the Art of Crime, p. 128-129
  38. Like Himes, Breton argued that writing provided the means for exploring and understanding the forces -- good and evil, and often painful and unconscious -- that structure lived experience. But it was no substitute for political violence, for actual rebellion. Instead, as the surrealist photographer and writer Claude Cahun writes in her 1934 polemic Les Paris son ouverts (The Bets Are Open), the strength of poetic language lies in its resistance to the cognitive certainty presumed by propaganda and protest writing alike: it "keeps its secret" even as it paradoxically "hands over its secret [livre son secret].

    Source: Surrealism and the Art of Crime, p. 263
  39. May the recent events have taught France and the world that liberty can only subsist in a dynamic state, that it becomes denatured and negates itself at the moment when one makes of it a museum piece...Humanity's aspirations for liberty must always be given the power to recreate themselves endlessly; that's why it must be thought of not as a state but as a living force bringing about continual progress...Liberty is not, like liberation, a struggle against sickness, it is health.

    Source: Arcanum 17, p. 126,128
  40. Note it was Andre Breton who coined the term "the great refusal" not Marcuse, so that's another good link between surrealism and critical theory.

    Source: Random Thoughts, p.
  41. Oscillating between Trotskyite and neo-anarchist political affiliation throughout the 1950s, surrealism's postwar project was oriented toward defending political and intellectual freedom against the military and ideological state apparatuses that worked to suppress it. Thus, although it recalled the anti colonialism of the 120s in its political imperative, by the mid-1950s surrealism's project was not defined in the same terms as its prewar incarnations; rather than seeking to incite revolutionary thought of action through their works, the surrealists instead committed themselves to defending and extending such thought and action as it happened.

    Source: Surrealism and the Art of Crime, p. 271
  42. Rarely was Benjamin able to wean himself from his infatuation with melancholia -- no easy task for a soul so firmly wedded to the redemptive promise of a past whose quintessential feature lay in its premonition of catastrophe. Surrealism did, however, evoke in him an appreciation for the ways by which laughter could crack open the world, exposing the raw nerve-endings of the politicized imagician's zone of struggle -- where "the long-sought image sphere is opened...the sphere, in a word, in which political materialism and physical nature share the inner man." For if surrealism tried to change that sorcery-bundle of mythical representations on which Western culture is based, and did so using images that levered wide contradictions opening the doorway to the marvelous, its own representing had to be both iconic and ironic -- bringing to mind not only Freud's analysis of the unconscious imagery mined and subverted by jokes, but also Mikhail Bakhtin's and Georges Bataille's fascination with anarchist poetics blending the grotesque and the humorous in carnival-like upheavals of degradation and renewal.

    And here I think the Latin American "magical realism" of the novelists and their critics fares poorly. There is truth in Carpentier's claim that the Europeans were forcing open the door to the marvelous in their own society with brutish despair, whereas in the colonies those doors stood ajar if not fully open. But neither in his work nor in that of Arguedas, Asturias, or Garcia Marquez, is, to my mind, the force of laughter and anarchy punctuating the misty realm of the marvelous to be heard. Too often the wonder that sustains their stories is represented in accord with a long-standing tradition of folklore, the exotic, and indigenismo that in oscillating between the cute and the romantic is little more than the standard ruling class appropriation of what is held to be the sensual vitality of the common people and their fantasy life. Yet to the surrealists, precisely because of the acute self-consciousness that went hand in hand with the aforementioned "brutish despair," there lay engraved as axiomatic the wonder and irritation expressed by the nose specialist in Berlin, Wilhelm Fliess, who, upon reading the page proofs of his good friend Dr. Freud's Interpretation of Dreams in the autumn of 1899, complained that the dreams were too full of jokes.

    Source: Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man, p. 201-202
  43. Recognizing the popular and clinical impact of crime to be an admixture of fiction and fact, the surrealists viewed crime as a phenomenon of the marvelous, an event characterized by the discrepancies and excesses it brought to light. Louis Aragon, in a series of aphorisms published in 1925, refers to this phenomenal quality as "the contradiction that reveals itself within the real." Aragon would later uphold this phenomenon as a mechanism for political change, arguing that the marvelous provides a means for diagnosing crises within existing political and cultural orders, as well as for attacking, in turn, the ideological forces that sustain them as reality...The surrealist fascination with crime is fundamental, I propose, to the movement's collective project, a radical synthesis of diverse fields of knowledge that sought to transform the ordering systems through which we understand and experience modern life.

    Source: Surrealism and the Art of Crime, p. 1-2
  44. Rushdie's political aim is familiar: through modestly experimental devices -- multiple narrators, time shifts, the violation of realistic decorum by improbable coincidences, magical events -- to liberate the reader from the tyranny of an inerrant text. As in DeLillo's Libra, Robert Coover's Public Burning, or J.G. Farrell's Empire trilogy, storytelling in The Satanic Verses is meant to act on a world already saturated by narratives, urging the reader to consider an alternative perspective, hoping to free up some space in the real world for another interpretation of the patriotic myth, the official version, the sacred text....The Rushdie affair has become the exemplary instance of the postmodernist political novel encountering actual politics, actual violence.

    Source: Plotting Terror, p. 21
  45. She moved through it carrying her fat book, attracted, unsure, a stranger, wanting to feel relevant but knowing how much of a search among alternate universes it would take. For she had undergone her own educating at a time of nerves, blandness and retreat among not only her fellow students but also most of the visible structure around and ahead of them, this having been a national reflex to certain pathologies in high places only death had had the power to cure, and this Berkeley was like no somnolent Siwash out of her own past at all, but more akin to those Far Eastern or Latin American universities you read about, those autonomous culture media where the most beloved of folklores may be brought into doubt, cataclysmic of dissents voiced, suicidal of commitments chosen -- the sort that bring governments down.

    Source: The Crying of Lot 49, p. 77-78
  46. Such fleeting and occult demonstrations did not enjoy a wide resonance. And yet Rhapsodism had ways of making its subversive presence felt.

    Source: Dancin' in the Streets, p. 11
  47. Such theatrical protests would become common later in the decade; in this as in many other matters Wobblies led the way for the New Left and the counterculture. It was not just an accident that some years later the whole Living Theater troupe joined the IWW.

    Source: Dancin' in the Streets, p. 26
  48. T-Bone [Slim]'s audacious imagination, flamboyant wordplay, and black humor, along with his marvelous maxims ("Wherever you find injustice, the proper form of politeness is attack"; "Half a loaf is better than no loafing at all") and his ability to regard old problems from the most improbable new angles (with results worthy of Alfred Jarry's Pataphysics), convinced us that the IWW project of working-class self-emancipation went hand in hand with all that we meant by the word poetry.

    Source: Dancin' in the Streets, p. 20
  49. Terrorism [in Mary McCarthy's Cannibals and Missionaries] is a pretext for the exploration of the relationship of artists and intellectuals to violence...[with] grave reservations about the competence of writers and intellectuals to understand and act in public history.

    Source: Plotting Terror, p. 60
  50. The bases of a practical approach to religion were laid down in L'Action immédiate by René Magritte, E.L.T. Mesens, Paul Nougé, Louis Scutenaire and André Souris:

    We are convinced that what has been done to oppose religion up to now has been virtually without effect and that new means of action must be envisaged.

    At the present time the Surrealists are the people best fitted to undertake this task. So as not to lose any time, we must aim for the head: the outrageous history of religions should be made known to all, the lives of young priests should be made unbearable, and all sects and organizations of the Salvation Army or of the Evangelical variety should be discredited by means of every kind of mockery our imagination can devise. Think how exhilarating it would be if we could persuade the better part of our youth to mount a well prepared and systematic campaign of disruption of church services, baptisms, communions, funerals and so on. Meanwhile roadside crosses might usefully be replaced by images promoting erotic love or poetically eulogizing the natural surroundings, particularly if these happen to be grim.


    Source: A Cavalier History of Surrealism, p. 41
  51. The decadence against which Coates distinguishes West's novel, I contend, refers to the paradigmatic malaise of so-called lost generation writing as described by Coates's friend Cowley in Exile's Return, his 1934 memoir of the American avant-garde's experience in interwar Paris. Even before the economic collapse of October 1929, the American modernists had already encountered a spiritual collapse, the decay and failure of the cosmopolitan ideal, which found its epitome in the death of the poet Harry Crosby, who committed suicide with his mistress in December 1929. According to Cowley, this collapse derived from the artificially-inflated spiritual value of the European avant-garde; young American writers of the 1920s found in Paris a "religion of art" embodied by Dada that "failed when it tried to become a system of ethics, a way of life" (286). As Cowley explains,

    During the 1920s all the extreme courses of action it [the religion of art] suggested had been tried once again, and all its paths had been retraced -- the way of dream, the way of escape, the ways of adventure, contemplation, and deliberate futility had all been followed toward the goal they promised of providing a personal refuge from bourgeois society, an individual paradise. But once more, and this time inescapably, it became evident that all those extreme courses were extreme only as ideals: in life there was always a sequel. (Exile's 286–87)

    Source: Anti-Menckenism: Nathanael West, Robert M. Coates, and the provisional avant-garde, p. 525-526
  52. The imperative to "mobilize all the powers of the imagination" defined the surrealist movement's political commitment in the years following the Rif War.

    Source: Surrealism and the Art of Crime, p. 126
  53. The lady, in esoteric love, matters least. So, too, for Breton. He is closer to the things that Nadja is close to than to her. What are these things? Nothing could reveal more about Surrealism than their canon. Where shall I begin? He can boast an extraordinary discovery. He was the first to perceive the revolutionary energies that appear in the 'outmoded', in the first iron constructions, the first factory buildings, the earliest photos, the objects that have begun to be extinct, grand pianos, the dresses of five years ago, fashionable restaurants when the vogue has begun to ebb from them. The relation of these things to revolution—no one can have a more exact concept of it than these authors. No one before these visionaries and augurs perceived how destitution—not only social but architectonic, the poverty of interiors, enslaved and enslaving objects—can be suddenly transformed into revolutionary nihilism. Leaving aside Aragon's Passage de l'Opera, Breton and Nadja are the lovers who convert everything that we have experienced on mournful railway journeys (railways are beginning to age), on God-forsaken Sunday afternoons in the proletarian quarters of the great cities, in the first glance through the rain-blurred window of a new apartment, into revolutionary experience, if not action. They bring the immense forces of 'atmosphere' concealed in these things to the point of explosion. What form do you suppose a life would take that was determined at a decisive moment precisely by the street song last on everyone's lips?

    Source: Surrealism: the Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia, p. 50
  54. The other surrealists...sought forms of collective practice that could reconcile the spiritual freedom Soupault championed with the political actuality promised by party communism...This did not mean that all surrealist writing and art was to become instrumentalized in the service of "effective" revolutionary praxis instead the group mobilized its experimental energies toward broadening the theoretical basis of communism.

    Source: Surrealism and the Art of Crime, p. 122
  55. The surrealist slogans aim likewisse to rein scribe the inchoate "realm of our experience" as an intersubjective and textually overdetermined framework; yet rather than providing the means to ensure its logical, ordered resolution, the slogans are distributed with an aim to "deprive us of a frame of reference" in order to recast knowledge as what Maurice Blanchot has called a communication with the unknown. This unknown referred neither to the unknowable nor to the transcendental reality of the noumenon, but rather to the point at which interpretive systems break down -- the limits of understanding. That is, extending the surrealist assassination of unitary logic and its ideological confines into the realm of the everyday, the activities of the Surrealist Research Bureau attempted to apply this mortal blow as a form of communication that would actually prevent any singular, unitary idea from taking shape.

    Source: Surrealism and the Art of Crime, p. 46
  56. The ties between surrealism's politics and the problem of terrorist violence briefly became a public issue once more in 2001, in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Recalling the surrealist movement's anti colonial and anti-Western rhetoric, which had been especially visible during the 1920s and 1930s, the prominent French curator Jean Clair excoriated the movement for its resemblance to al-Qaeda. In a newspaper editorial published in December 2001, Clair juxtaposed the destruction of the World Trade Center with Louis Aragon's 1925 rant against the "white buildings" of New York City, suggesting a causal (rather than merely analogical) relationship between fundamentalist terrorism and the interwar European avant-garde. In making this juxtaposition, Clair contends that "the surrealist ideology never stopped hoping for the death of an America it saw as materialist and sterile, and for the triumph of an Orient that served as the repository for the values of the mind." ore than simply a historical coincidence, Clair argues, surrealism's anti-Western and pro-"Oriental" ideology helped "prepare the minds" of European civilization -- yet prepared them not for revolution but for an anti humanism complicit with the forms of totalitarianism and state terror that would follow, from Stalinist purges to the Holocaust.

    Clair's polemic was an attack on avant-garde rhetoric, though, rather than a critique of the surrealist movement's actual political thinking, as represented in the many tracts, pamphlets, and speeches the surrealists produced throughout the movement's history. Indeed, Clair's own charge of surrealism's complicity in 9/11 -- a rhetorical gesture par excellence -- is a reaction, he claims, against the ideological stakes of surrealism's own intensified rhetoric, whose insults and violent polemics "are no different from those found in the fiery attacks of the fascist leagues or, on the other side of the political spectrum, those soon to be addressed to the 'mad dogs' in the Moscow trials. They signal an era." Violent rhetoric produces violent action, Clair maintains; and because surrealism spoke, and because its rhetoric thus served as the conduit between its artistic practices and the political sphere, surrealist appeals to violence and to the dissolution of Western humanistic ideals cannot safely be viewed as autonomous artistic utterances. In "seeking to conflate vita contemplativa and vita politica," Clair argues, the movements members become as subject to judgment and condemnation as any member of a political party.

    Source: Surrealism and the Art of Crime, p. 268
  57. The vision of the writer as revolutionary, Byron in Greece or Lamartine on the barricades in 1848, is too compelling to be abandoned easily, even or especially when it is accompanied by the expectation that the writer in old age will be a hoary sage, a Victor Hugo living in the comfort a grateful nation bestows on its benefactors. Such grand and hopeful views of the writer's authority are the lighted backdrop that accentuates the dark outlines of terrorist fiction, that most pessimistic of genres, and supplies it with its deeper ironies. From James to Coetzee, novelists who imagine a bond between terrorist and writer assume that both are isolated and marginal, incapable of gaining a hearing in the ordinary language of civic life.

    Source: Plotting Terror, p. 155
  58. The writers in the Aesthete: 1925 group themselves shared Mencken's scorn for "messianic" radicalism; yet they nonetheless maintained that the function of the critic was, as Burke put it, to "refine the propensities of his age, formulating their aesthetic equivalent, translating them into terms of excellence". They advocated for the significance of provisional groups, little magazines, and collective pursuits as a means for arbitrating artistic responsibility and for galvanizing the dialogism and critical spirit that would upend closed, utopian thinking.

    Source: Anti-Menckenism: Nathanael West, Robert M. Coates, and the provisional avant-garde, p. 254
  59. Then the persecuted surrealists will be found in cafés chantants, taking advantage of the confusion to peddle their recipes for infecting images. An attitude, a reflex action, a sudden betrayal of irritability on the part of certain customers will suffice for them to be suspected of surrealism by the police who are keeping them under observation. I can already visualize the law's agents provocateurs with their wiles and their tarps. The right of individuals to forge their own destiny will yet again be restricted and challenged. Public peril will be invoked, or the general interest, or even the preservation of humanity itself...Young people will plunge passionately into this serious, unprofitable game. It will pervert the course of their lives. The Faculties will be deserted, the laboratories closed down. The very idea of armies, families, professions will become inconceivable. Then, in the face of this ever-increasing disaffection of social life, a great conspiracy of all the dogmatic and realist forces of the world will be organized against the phantom of illusions. It will win...

    Source: Paris Peasant, p. 66
  60. There is no question that Carrington was in need of some treatment; she had become convinced that parts of Europe were becoming hypnotized by agents of Hitler. Although this doesn't seem very far off the mark for the people who experienced it, Carrington believed that magical forces were at work and repeatedly singled out certain Nazi figures (a man named Van Ghent in Spain, for example) as targets for assassination. She was ultimately committed to an asylum for constantly badgering the British Embassy that Van Ghent should be eliminated.

    Source: Disruptive Testimonies: The Stakes of Surrealist Experience in Breton and Carrington, p. 100
  61. This anarchistic anti-campaign, typically ignored by the many historians of the Beat movement, was a scathing satire of Establishment politics and an assertion of the rising new radicalism's sweeping rejection of the entire military-industrial-political swindle.

    Source: Dancin' in the Streets, p. 13
  62. This idea, that a postmodern fiction offers an effective form of political resistance because it undermines categories through which we experience official views of reality as reality itself, is but the most recent expression of the old romantic idea of writer as rebel. It is one obviously close to Volodine, who in his 1991 novel Alto Solo describes a writer suspiciously like himself, a man whose anguish over the real world leads him to write about alternative societies, even though he longs to denounce the dominant ideology directly...Certainly Lisbonne dernière marge takes the political claims of postmodernism seriously, yet in the end they too prove dubious...The powerful, Volodine suggests, are likely to remain the fabricators of reality, and a difficult experimental form quickly degenerates into aesthetic game-playing.

    Source: Plotting Terror, p. 147-148
  63. This literary ethics, in other words, posited reform as a project toward which art could aim -- but which it could not in itself fulfill. The anti-Menckenists refused the grandiose claims about cultural unity and cohesion presented in the work of writers such as T.S. Eliot and Frank, while also opposing Mencken's own lingering (if frustrated) progressivism in presuming that America could only be improved through the acerbic vigor of Nietzschean supermen-critics. The anti-Menckenists, I contend, distanced themselves from the "religious" presumption that the right kind of critical or artistic voice might bear redemptive wisdom within it: the presumption that language could, in fact, convey truth. Dramatizing the failure -- and even violence -- of such beliefs, the anti-Menckenists instead viewed writing as a means for establishing the terms and conditions of public engagement and introduced the possibility that writing could rhetorically call into being the provisional institutions the writers themselves formed as critics, correspondents, and friends.

    Source: Anti-Menckenism: Nathanael West, Robert M. Coates, and the provisional avant-garde, p. 523
  64. This type of image-making and image-dependent historiography is also the subject of a pointedly eccentric contribution to the twentieth-century Western European theory of social revolution, namely Walter Benjamin's concepts of redemptive criticism and dialectical images. In his youth, in 1914, Benjamin argued for just the kind of historiography as is exhibited in the image-making provoked by the Virgin of Caloto. Contrary to the view of history as a progressive continuum, the young Benjamin advanced the notion that "history rests collected in a focal point, as formerly in the utopian images of thinkers. The elements of the end condition are not present as formless tendencies of progress but instead are embedded in every present as endangered, condemned, and ridiculed creations and ideas." The historical task, he went on to say, "is to give absolute form in a genuine way to the immanent condition of fulfillment, to make it visible and predominant in the present."

    Source: Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man, p. 199
  65. True antifascism, the surrealists argued, required more than a mobilization against some strange, alien threat. Rather, as the Noziere case fully revealed, it required a fundamental attack on petit-bourgeois values not just the revolution in class relations to which the surrealists remained committed throughout the 1930s, but even more fundamentally, a revolution in family values -- a revolution, in other words, in gender relations. Like the rewriting of Violette's name, this revolution would require not only violence but also a form of writing and thinking that is at once stealing and flying, a surrealist libération de l'esprit.

    Source: Surrealism and the Art of Crime, p. 214
  66. Unlike the more celebrated surrealist images of the early 1920s, this composition [the before & after juxtaposition of the Papin sisters] invokes, through absence, the disruptive violence of the Papin murders for analytical rather than affective purposes. Its aim is no longer to "disorient us in our own memory by depriving us of a frame of reference," as Breton wrote in 1921, but rather to orient. Indeed by 1933 disorientation and disillusionment were no longer simply the watchwords of surrealist activity but had instead become conditions of political life under the threat of the seemingly incomprehensible rise of fascism. In this context the surrealist image offered a new frame of reference for political judgment; yet its value as theory would derive less from philosophy or logic than from the clinical study of paranoia, whose challenge to the naive realism at the core of communist thinking would provide the epistemological grounds for a renewed surrealist commitment to political resistance, directed explicitly against fascism....[P]aranoia increasingly offered...a form of thought that "was both autonomous and critical," and "could destabilize a consensual understanding of the real."

    Source: Surrealism and the Art of Crime, p. 179-180
  67. Unlike the upper- and middle-class New Left, which was just gaining a toehold on some of the more well-to-do U.S. campuses, the Rebel Worker group was made up entirely of young wage-earners.

    Source: Dancin' in the Streets, p. 14
  68. We disdained what we called the "traditional Left" as little more than a "loyal opposition" of the old order. We saw ourselves as the radical negation of that order in its entirety, left-wing and all. We rejected, as if by instinct, the stifling ideological compartmentalizations which seemed to us to typify the overall bureaucratic sterility of so many leftist orthodoxies. Their indifference to "culture," for example -- except as the direct expression of a "political line" -- convinced us that their vision went no further than a "planned economy." What excited us, on the contrary, were the limitless possibilities of the free imagination in conditions of playful anarchy.

    Source: Dancin' in the Streets, p. 15
  69. What distinguished the Rebel Worker group from all the other groups that claimed to be against capitalism? What made us so different? The answers are obvious: humor, poetry, and breadth of vision -- which are a large part of what make a revolution revolutionary. Our critique focused not only on Capital, work and the workplace, but also and above all on everyday life. Our aim, as our Philadelphia correspondent Judy Kaplan put it, was "to be revolutionary in everything."

    Source: Dancin' in the Streets, p. 38
  70. What Himes refers to as his own version of surrealism, a vernacular surrealism allied with the blues, thus has less to do with the formal descriptions of surrealist practices found in Breton's manifestoes than with the political legacy of the group in the postwar public domain. This legacy, especially in its infiltration within the "philosophy" of Duhamel's Série Noire, lingered as an insistence on the conflicts and even falsehoods of language, the resistance of writing and its motives to an immediate political use-value...Like Cahun's ideas about surrealist poetry, Himes's black humor contradicts the existentialist faith in African American vernacular forms as means of expression alone, suggesting instead that they "guard their secrets" in order that their political anger, their unconscious, subterranean cachet of revolutionary knowledge and desire, remain open. So too, I contend, does there remain an openness within surrealist discourse more broadly; no longer limited to the active movement, this discourse was distributed throughout postwar intellectual life, and throughout the world, as an intransigent form of political expression as much attuned to the "mysterious exchange of humorous pleasure" as to the objective recognition of social injustice.

    Source: Surrealism and the Art of Crime, p. 265
  71. When the lost children of this still immobile army reappear on this battleground which was altered and yet remains the same, they follow a new "General Ludd" who, this time, urges them to destroy the machines of permitted consumption.

    Source: Society of the Spectacle, p. 115
  72. [A]fter ten years of seeing Europe crushed under the boots of fascist murderers and their self-serving political collaborators, the time had come for an even more revolutionary flavor of liberation that had exceeded the fantasies of Marx and Engels -- there was a need for a set of ideas that would totally reorder the very fabric of the universe in the service of freedom, and the Surrealists saw this as the best reason for a renaissance of Romantic socialism and Fourierist poetics. In a postwar political climate dominated by the viciously cynical Jesuit device of 'ends justify means', talk of Fourier introduced two things that were sorely lacking: a blackly humorous critical (and therefore revolutionary) spark and an unwavering dedication to the complete emancipation of human beings. 'Action, even in the rigorous and unquestioned form it takes today for those who fight in the name of liberty, will only be valuable so long as our interpretation of the world...will not have the brakes slammed on it', Breton thundered. The revolutionary poetry of Fourier's socialism was exactly the kind of critical extravagance that a truly free and freedom-respecting society should be able to tolerate and welcome.

    From chapter: Attacks of the Fantastic, Donald LaCoss
    Source: Surrealism, Politics and Culture, p. 279-280
  73. [Conversation between Bill Gray and his friend Charlie]
    "You have a twisted sense of the writer's place in society. You think the writer belongs at the far margin, doing dangerous things. In Central America, writers carry guns. They have to. And this has always been your idea of the way it ought to be. The state should want to kill all writers. Every government, every group that holds power or aspires to power should feel so threatened by writers that they hunt them down, everywhere."
    "I've done no dangerous things."
    "No. But you've lived out the vision anyway."
    "So my life is a kind of simulation."

    Source: Mao II, p. 97
  74. [T]he live 'hysteric' served as the perfect cipher for the Surrealist exhibition's provocation against both modernism and its most authority-weighted institutions. Remote from the productivist/rational/utopian concerns of what is now understood as high modernism, the Surrealists violently rejected, in particular, architectural modernism throughout the life of the movement. During the 1930s, Dali even conflated hysteria with the 'terrifying and edible beauty' of Art Nouveau -- that architecture whose asymmetry, undulating curves and 'perversity' offered a corrective, in the Spaniard's view, to the right angles and functionalism of the modernist architecture championed by Le Corbusier. An edifice as hysterical body, womb, psychic envelope or crumbling ruin emerged as the only possible counter for Surrealism to the repressive authority of Architecture.

    From chapter: Elena Filipovic, Surrealism in 1938: The Exhibition at War
    Source: Surrealism, Politics and Culture, p. 195-196