Arcanum 17

Arcanum 17

by Andre Breton
     
 

Considered radical at the time, today Breton’s ideas seem almost prescient, yet breathtaking in their passionate underlying belief in the indestructibility of life and the freedom of the human spirit. André Breton wrote Arcanum 17 during a trip to the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec in the months after D-Day in 1944, when the Allied troops were

Overview

Considered radical at the time, today Breton’s ideas seem almost prescient, yet breathtaking in their passionate underlying belief in the indestructibility of life and the freedom of the human spirit. André Breton wrote Arcanum 17 during a trip to the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec in the months after D-Day in 1944, when the Allied troops were liberating Occupied Europe. Using the huge Percé Rock—its impermanence, its slow-motion crumbling, its singular beauty—as his central metaphor, Breton considers issues of love and loss, aggression and war, pacifism, feminism and the occult, in a book that is part prose and part poetry, part reality and part dream.

Translator Zack Rogow won the PEN-Book-of-the-Month Translation Prize for his co-translation of Breton’s Earthlight.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Many French intellectuals who stayed in France greeted surrealist Breton's musings written from the near arctic reaches of Canada with some resentment when they first appeared in 1945. In fact, the book, although not one of his greatest works, may well have more resonance with contemporary audiences with its archetypes, goddesses, concern for nature and overall mystical bent. Like L'amour fou or Nadja , much of Arcanum 17 is a meditation on love but a tender lasting love for the concrete, rather tragic Elisa Bindhoff. Half-hidden among the dreams, soliloquys and recollections is the book's real purpose--to question the very way of being that had brought the world to such a horrible pass. Among the givens Breton calls on the carpet are logic, morality, time, death and most of all, masculine supremacy--``This crisis is so severe that I, myself, see only one solution: the time has come to value the ideas of woman at the expense of those of man, whose bankruptcy is coming to pass fairly tumultuously today.'' As Rogow points out in his helpful preface, the book's title is taken from the tarot, Arcanum 17 being the 17th card or star card, the signifier of renewal. Hints of the old interests (alchemy) and newer ones (Native American culture) mingle into a fluid and dynamic work by one of the most influential thinkers of the century. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Arcanum 17- a tarot card, called The Star, that is the 17th card in the Major Arcana- depicts a woman pouring superlunary forces into a mundane world. Analogic, decidedly feminist, and ahead of his time, Breton wrote this hymn of hope, renewal, and resurrection in the summer and fall of 1944 in Sainte Agathe in Gasp, near Perc Rock where Breton joyfully vacationed with Elisa, who would become his third wife. His second wife, Jacqueline Lamba, had abandoned him, taking with her his beloved daughter. Thus, the poet saw a parallel between his own broken life and a war-ravaged Europe. But the solid, weather-beaten Perc Rock reminds him that nature renews herself and that death is only transitory. Appended in 1947, this book advocates a new internationalism to prevent war. Rogow's translation conveys Breton's enthusiasm and hope. Uplifting reading if the reader can appreciate Breton's analogic style.-Bob Ivey, Memphis State Univ.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781557131706
Publisher:
Sun & Moon Press
Publication date:
10/28/1994
Series:
Sun and Moon Classics Series
Pages:
144
Product dimensions:
4.99(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.36(d)

Meet the Author

Breton is the great French writer, the founder of Surrealism.

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