Martinique: Snake Charmer

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Overview

In 1941, as the Vichy regime consolidated its control of France, André Breton left the country for the island of Martinique. A poet and the principal founder of surrealism, Breton did not stay long, but his visit inspired the essays and poems of this book. Martinique: Snake Charmer is one of surrealism's most important texts, and it has been called "the most beautiful of all books" about the island. (Martinique: Snake Charmer also includes nine evocative drawings by the surrealist André Masson, a companion of Breton's during his stay on the island.) First collected into a single volume in 1948 and in print in France ever since, this is the first English translation of a work that, in series editor Franklin Rosemont's view, seeks "not merely to question the dogmas and platitudes of so-called common sense and 'established facts,' but to deviate from them, absolutely, in an imaginative quest for new and untried solutions to society's gravest problems."

In the tropical beauty of Martinique, Breton found what he called "the Marvelous"; he also found outrageous greed, corruption, and colonial brutality. His guide through this schizophrenic place was Aimé Césaire, a Martinican surrealist and writer who Breton later championed in the book's most important essay, "A Great Black Poet." Breton recognized how Césaire and others had adapted surrealism to the specific conditions of the West Indies, enriching the movement in ways he could not have imagined. As a result, Breton never succumbed to the gloom that afflicted postwar Europe. He and Césaire and others continued the surrealists' quest undaunted, propelled in large part by the spirit they captured in this dynamic book.

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Editorial Reviews

Times Literary Supplement
A spirited introduction by the Chicago surrealist Franklin Rosement complements the efforts of the translator David W. Seaman, who adds his own photographs of Martinique to his valuable notes clarifying Breton's reference to local phenomena. Comparison with the original French publication of the 1948 confirms that scrupulous care has been taken.
— Roger Cardinal
Times Literary Supplement - Roger Cardinal
A spirited introduction by the Chicago surrealist Franklin Rosement complements the efforts of the translator David W. Seaman, who adds his own photographs of Martinique to his valuable notes clarifying Breton's reference to local phenomena. Comparison with the original French publication of the 1948 confirms that scrupulous care has been taken.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780292717657
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press
  • Publication date: 1/2/2008
  • Series: Surrealist Revolution Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 96
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

David W. Seaman is Professor of French at Georgia Southern University.
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Table of Contents

Translator's Acknowledgments
Introduction by Franklin Rosemont

Preface by André Breton
Antille by André Masson
The Creole Dialogue between André Breton and André Masson
Some Trembling Pins
The Breakwater
The Double-Winged Inscription
The Black Queen's Buttons
Fortune Turns
For Madame Suzanne Césaire
The Dark Lantern
Bearer with No Burden
The Map of the Island
Troubled Waters
A Great Black Poet
Formerly Known as Liberty Street

Notes

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