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Free Rein

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Overview


Free Rein is a gathering of seminal essays by André Breton, the foremost figure among the French surrealists. Written between 1936 and 1952, they include addresses, manifestoes, prefaces, exhibition pamphlets, and theoretical, polemical, and lyrical essays. Together they display the full span of Breton’s preoccupations, his abiding faith in the early principles of surrealism, and the changing orientations, in light of crucial events of those years, of the surrealist movement within which he remained the leading force.

Having broken decisively with Marxism in the mid-1930s, Breton repeatedly addresses the horrors of the Stalinist regime (which denounced him during the Moscow trials of 1936). He argues for the autonomy of art and poetry and condemns the subservience to “revolutionary” aims exemplified by socialist realism. Other articles reflect on aesthetic issues, cinema, music, and education and provide detailed meditations on the literary, artistic, and philosophical topics for which he is best known. Free Rein will prove indispensable for students of Breton, surrealism, and modern French and European culture.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This book, whose title literally means "The Key to the Fields," is a gathering of surrealist Breton's various writings during his prime and mature years, from 1936 to 1952, beginning immediately after he broke with the Communist Party (although not with Marxist ideals). As if symbolic of that drive for independence, a definite quest for the freedom of literary and artistic pursuits from any political engagement is evident thoughout. Whether Breton is addressing art forms such as cinema in the essay "As in a Wood," or music in "Golden Silence," or reflecting on aesthetic issues, education, etc., intellectual autonomy is the leitmotif. Although versions of some of these pieces have appeared in English before, translators Parmentier (Bishop's Univ., Quebec) and d'Amboise, an independent poet, chose here to base their rendition solely on the original French. Thirty years after Breton's death, this volume certainly helps us view his work in its totality and continuity. Together with the forthcoming translations of Les pas perdus and Point du jour from the same publisher, it should complement any serious collection on Surrealism. Highly recommended.Ali Houissa, Cornell Univ., Ithaca, N.Y.
Kirkus Reviews
A compendium of the French surrealist's major prose writings, from 1936 to 1952, which intriguingly exposes Breton's limitations and datedness along with his besetting enthusiasms.

This surrealist exemplar, like his colleagues, sought "the liberation of the human spirit" through perceptual experiment. His main literary tool in this was automatism, a method of composition that abandoned the rational in order to discover more intrinsic truths lodged in the unconscious. Breton's desires to "transform the world," to "change life," and to "reshape the human mind" were subversively political as well as aesthetic in purpose. But an abiding irony of his wordage is its dogmatism and stiff, bulging verbal edifice in a collection that includes memoir, political and cultural critique, aesthetic credos, public lectures, and all- purpose rants. Though historically a rebel, Breton also conveys the contrary urges of an institution-builder or party stalwart who is indulging in a few too many partisan, chastening pronouncements. In this translation, his style comes across as baroque, with some exceptions, as when the author was inspired to reply to a precocious 12-year-old girl's letter. She asked him, "Do you think Americans are right to give so much freedom to children or is it better, as in France, to subject them to strict discipline? . . . Do you recommend artists such as Matisse and Picasso to children?" Called on to radically simplify his position for a child with no prior assumptions, Breton could be fetchingly ingenuous and illuminating. "Well," he conceded, "if you had been able to question me earlier, you would have found me much more self- confident."

The paradoxes implied by a once-vernal intelligence, which now come to seem rather Wizard-of-Oz-like, recommend a reconsideration of Breton's work.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803212411
  • Publisher: UNP - Nebraska
  • Publication date: 3/28/1996
  • Series: French Modernist Library Series
  • Pages: 293
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Meet the Author


Michel Parmentier is a professor of French at Bishop’s University, Québec. He is the author of Mise au point and Regards contemporains: Textes d’actualité québécoise. He is coauthor with Jacqueline d’Amboise of Second Regards, Récits récents, and Nouvelles nouvelles: Fictions du Québec contemporain. Jacqueline d’Amboise is an independent poet and translator. She is the author of Mother Myths, a book of poems.
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Table of Contents

Introduction
Marvelous versus Mystery 1
Nonnational Boundaries of Surrealism 7
Gradiva 19
Memory of Mexico 23
Manifesto for an Independent Revolutionary Art 29
Visit with Leon Trotsky 35
The Marseilles Deck 48
Situation of Surrealism between the Two Wars 51
Declaration VVV 68
Golden Silence 70
Profanation 75
A Tribute to Antonin Artaud 77
Before the Curtain 80
Surrealist Comet 88
Second Ark 98
Magloire-Saint-Aude 102
Ascendant Sign 104
The Lamp in the Clock 108
Thirty Years Later 122
Caught in the Act 125
Oceania 170
Fronton-Virage 175
The Night of the Rose-Hotel 196
Predescription 204
The Engineer 206
The Art of the Insane, the Door to Freedom 217
Pont-Neuf 221
Open Letter to Paul Eluard 229
The Donator 232
As in a Wood 235
Foreword to the Germain Nouveau Exhibition 241
Yellow Sugar 244
Alfred Jarry as Precursor and Initiator 247
Why Is Contemporary Russian Painting Kept Hidden from Us? 257
Tower of Light 265
Letter to a Young Girl Living in America 268
Of "Socialist Realism" as a Means of Mental Extermination 274
Notes 279
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