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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Nadja (1928) by André Breton

Braque's 1910 painting "Guitar with Violin" appears as an illustration in the "surrealist classic" Nadja, by French author/surrealist Andre Breton

Book Review
Nadja (1928)
by André Breton

  The very idea of a "surrealist classic" is antithetical to the surrealist movement, which stands in direct opposition to "classics" and "classicism."  The ideal surrealist work is something spontaneous and irrevent.  Both those values are inconsistent with any idea of classicism, which stresses adherence to known forms and careful contemplation prior to memorializing an idea.  A more accurate description of Nadja is "one of the most well known works of the surrealist movement."  I would imagine that is mostly because Breton himself was a leader of the surrealist movement in Paris during its formative period.

  Although it doesn't appear in the 1001 Books list, Breton's Surrealist Manifesto (1924) is THE most exemplary work of surrealist movement, since it seeks to define an idea that supposedly defies definition.

   Nadja is a loosely woven tale of a character who very much resembles the author and his relationship with the eponymous character, a woman of elusive charm and no fixed address or income. They wander the streets of Paris and environs, and Breton intersperses the text with both photographs and drawings, some of which are said to be done by Nadja herself.   This is not the melting clocks, razor in the eye surrealism of Dali and Bataille.  Rather, it is a more placid depiction of mental disquiet, a disquiet made explicit by the institutionalization of Nadja in an insane asylum at the end of this short (150 pages, with 50 pages of pictures/drawings.)

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