I’m not sure that I completely agree with Breton’s ideas in some of the things he discusses. I do like his notion of the insane “being honest to a fault” (5). However, I don’t agree that M. Paul Valéry’s suggestion of creating an anthology made up entirely of first sentences from novels is an insane one. I personally look forward each year to the new edition of The Best American Non-Required Reading, which contains a small section, dedicated completely to some of the year’s best opening sentences. I think if someone did create such a compilation as Valéry proposes, I would probably buy it.
Surrealism, as I am trying to understand it, seems very similar to magnetic poetry. The poems on pages 41-43 strike me as being just that, the only difference is that these poems were found poems clipped from newspapers, rather than being packaged up, themed and mass-produced to be sold at your local store of whimsy.
This fashion of combining thoughts that seem, at least on the surface, to be completely unrelated, feels to me more like a conscious effort to sound random. The sense that I get is that people who write surrealism, try to portray it as an absolute freeing of the mind, allowing it to wander where it may. I think when you let your mind wander, it tends to link things up closer together than demonstrated in this writing style. Thoughts, to me, trigger other thoughts: something reminds you of something else and that something else leads to another something else, etc. The samples of surrealism given here don’t seem to be doing that though. They seem incredibly forced. For instance, the answers to the questions on page 34 are so unrelated to the questions, I’m having a hard time accepting it as anything more than a complete disregard to the actual questions being asked.
Writing is such a conscious effort. It’s all about choosing the most appropriate words to get your thoughts across. As far as surrealist writing, I’m not convinced this is even possible. Thoughts are more dimensional than mere sentences and paragraphs can possibly portray. I think in the act of choosing the words to describe your thoughts, you are not entirely in a state of liberating your mind. I liked that Breton mentioned surrealist artists such as Picasso. It further helped me to try to grasp the concept by giving me a concrete visual. I think that visual art is a more suitable medium for the abstract idea of surrealism. When put into written form, it is messy and often hard to follow. The subjects are constantly changing. Although I think Breton did not favor the use of titles as Soupault does (23-24), I find them quite helpful for this sort of thing. Rather than adjusting yourself constantly from thought to thought, trying to decipher what is going on, the text is qualified in a way that prepares you for the shift in ideas. I both understood and enjoyed reading the “Secrets of the Magical Surrealist Art” on pages 29-32, than most of the preceding pages. The reason for this: subtitles.