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Bataille - Surrealism From Day to Day

Bataille - Surrealism From Day to Day

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Published by: Mutability on Nov 20, 2011
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"'!)
TheAbsenceof
Myth
WritingsonSurrealism
GEORGESBATAILLEEdited,translatedandintroduced
by
MichaelRichardson
VERSO
london'NewYork
 
Surrealismfrom
Day
to
Day
ToYvesBreton,whosefriendshipinspiredtheideaandpossibilityofwritingabookthatI
love.Chapter1
1.
My
intention
1
Ihavejustfinishedreadingthepagesdevoted
to
surrealismin
TheRebel.
Myunderstandingofsurrealismisonadifferentlevel
to
thatofAlbertCamus.fFormyself,Iremainconnected
to
theseminorandtoofamiliardetailsofadisputeinwhichmyvoicewasunfortunatelyraised.Butitisnecessarytobringtogetherinasinglepointtheamplificationofsubmergedlifeinwhichnothingatallcanresistthevivacitywhichfreesusfromourbonds.Minordetailsareimportanttome,andIcannotseparatemyvaluablemomentsfromthehumilitytheygiveme.1amnotwritingthisbookwithaviewtopublication.Atthepresentmoment1amwritingformyself,forthoserarepeoplewhowillpassand,aidedbychance,falluponthesepages(1havenowishtointervene,exceptinonerespect:Iwouldprefertheretobenoothercopiesofthesepages;IforbidtheirpublicationandIcouldnotallowasinglepassage
to
bequoted).ClearlyImightchangemymindandpassthetexttoapublisher...Inanyevent,myintentionisneithertoharmnor
to
disparage.Ilovethosesubmerged,forlorn-almostshameful-antecedents,thissortofmanureinwhichanalmost-alwayssecrettruthisnourished,perpet-uallyconcealed,halfembarrassingandmarkedbyshame:thisisallthatpleasesme.Ilovepuritytotheextentoflovingimpurity,withoutwhichpuritywouldbecounterfeit.IdonotknowifIcompromiseorsafeguard;IthinkImaybeleadingmyselfawayorgoingbeyond:itisthesortofvicethathasameaninglesshiddenineroticism.34
WritingsonSurrealism
35
Surrealism'sDadaistoriginsaddtoitaninextricableelement.Some-thingd>li25:.~~.!_e.
£.l.I}~,LQ.sten1a.ti2~~.
_g_~~~_~an~~~n~::_n5!_':v.~~~.~
~~s.:~_r,
childishness~Theconnectionissoperfect,we
GO
notknowwnIchor
·th~~;.fuili~gs
sthemoreodious.Butthosewhoareunableproperlytoappreciatethesweet,soapy,nakedqualityofprostitutesdonot
feel
whatitisthatattachesus,inasimilarway,tothemostdreadfulfailures.
I
mayaswellfinallysayit:itistheonlychance.Otherwisemenwouldrepelme,and
I
wouldscorntheirsincerity:itisconnected
to
thesefoulhabits,andthehatefulverbalpandemoniuminwhicheverythingishideousordisfigured,bearingthepromiseofamutedisavowal.
I
shallwritebyfitsandstarts,sortingoutmymemoriesandnothesitatingtospeakaboutmyself,butthis
myself
istheperson
I
haveknownbetterthananyother,andoftenitwasonlymybehaviourthatposedthequestionsthatbecameimportantforme.Iwouldespeciallyliketointroducedigressions,fortheabuseofdigressionsseemstometheonlysphere
to
whichmyargumentresponds.Nevertheless,mynarrativecouldwellnotdifferfromwhatImighthavesaidaboutmy'literarylife'.
2.
MichelLeins
ThefirstpersonIgottoknowwasMichelLeiris.Imethimattheendof
1924
throughJacquesLavaud,afellowlibrarianattheBibliothequeNationale.Thethreeofushadthevagueintentionoffoundingaliterarymovenient,butwehadonlyemptyideasaboutwhatformitwouldtake.IcanrecallthatoneeveningaftercocktailswewenttothebarofalittlebrothelinastreetadjoiningPorteSaint-Denis,whichoneofushadheardabout.Itwasagood-natured,intimatebrothel,andwedrankagreatdeal,especiallyme,themostinebriatedo~thet~ree:.Idrankinadisorderlyandexcessiveway.AsIrecall,ourdiscussions,mwhichoneofthegirlsparticipated(withalively,ifmisguided,inter-est),werecertainlyanodyne,andsowastheirextravagance.Butatthattimeextravagancecameeasilytothosewhomitcaptivated,andtheyfeltthatitputanendtothecommon-senseworld-somuchsothatthe'movement'seemedtoustotakeshape:theonlythingweneededtodowaspublishafewofourdiscussions(whichInoteddowninmydrunkenness)...Beyondatiredaffectation,everythingelsestruckus,ofcourse,.asnegligible.SoonafterwardsLeirisgotcaughtupwiththeSurreahstGroup,andwedidn'tmentionitagain.Ithinkthebreadthandharshnessofthedevelopingmovementgavehimashock.Acoupleofmonthspassedbeforewesaweachotheragain.Neitherofuswas
 
36
TheAbsenceofMythWritingsonSurrealism
37
accustomedtoexplainingourselves,especiallynotLeiris.Myfriendspokefreelyaboutbarsanddrinking.Sometimesliteraturewasmen-tioned,butwithnomoreinterestthanbarsanddrinking.(Icansaythat1feltdissatisfiedbythefactthatLeiris,whowasyoungerthanme,intimidatedme:whenIwaswithhim1feltashamed
to
talkaboutwhatreallyinterestedme.NotonlydidIlivewiththissenseofshame,butLeiriswas,ofthetwoofus,the
initiatedone.)
Finally,onmyinsistence,hespokeaboutthesurrealistsatgreaterlength,andimmediatelyitseemedtomethatwhilethesubjectmightbeabsurd,itwasalsosolemn,evenboring.Iwasannoyed.IthadseparatedmefromLeiris.Ilikedhimalot,buthegavemetounderstandthatourrelationshipwassecondary.Exceptforthedesireforadazzlinglife,Iwasinterestedonlyinthedisconnectedandtheinconsequential....Iwasright:thepersonwhoselifeismediocreisunabletojudgeanything;hethinksheisjudginglife,butheisreallyjudgingonlyhisowninadequacy.Moreover,Iwasintorment.IsometimesfeltthatLeirishadbeentakenin,andIfearedaboisterousfraud.Icouldrespondonlytoasecretandprovocativeviolencewhicharousedmeandconsignedme,Ibelieved,tosomeclairvoyantfatethatwasworthyofbeingtakenseriously.1immediatelythoughtthatthed!:I]~.~_~_~r.:~<:L?.furrealismwouldpara-lyseandsuffocateme.Icouldnotbreatheinanatmosphereofostentation.Ifoundmyselfrejectedand,asifIhadexperiencedtheshockthathaddirectlystruckLeirisbycontagion,1hadthefeelingofbeingoverwhelmedbyastrange,deceitfulandhostileforcewhichemanatedfromaworldwithoutsecrets,fromaplatformonwhichIwouldneverreceiveoracceptaplace,beforewhich1wouldremaindumb,mediocreandpowerless.AtfirstIsensedthechangeinLeiris'sattitudeonlydimly,butverysoonIhadaclearsenseofwhatitinvolved:amoralterroremanatingfromtheruthlessnessandcraftinessofarabble-rouser.PersonallyIwas
nothing
butthelocusofemptyagitation.Iwantednothingandcoulddonothing.Therewasnothingwithinmewhichevengavemetherighttospeakinamutedvoice.Iwassuddenlyfacedwithpeoplewhoassumedanauthoritativetone,foundwithinthemselves-outofweariness?orboredom?-butwithoutacting!-whohadevendeliber-atelychosenthisvoicethatsetthemapart,alientoeverything.Evenbeforegoinganyfurther,IfeltthecoldnessthatseizedLeiris.Somethinghadchangedhim-hewasnowsilent,evasive,andmoreillateasethanever.Hewasutterlyataloss,preytosuchnervesthateverythingslippedawayfromhim.Atthetimehewaselegant,butinasubtlewayandwithouttheself-consciousnessthatwouldlaterrobhimofsomeofthiselegance.Hepowderedhisfacecompletely,usingsomethingaswhiteastalc.Thenervousnesswhichcausedhimtobitetheendsofhisfingersdowntothenailsgavehisfeaturesalunarrelief.Hiswordswereperhapssententious-soastoirritatehimself,itseemed,sothathecouldmoreauthenticallybethisfake,scatter-brainedchildcaughtintheact,suddenlycarefultoobserveafastidiousdiscipline,adisciplinewhichheobservedwithanexpressionlesseye,lookingelsewhere...obliquelyeagerforwhathedarednotdo:disobeyorflee.
3.AndreBreton
Leirisintroducedme
to
Bretononlylater.HemadeitclearthatBretonwasthesoulofthemovement.Hespokewithemotionaboutthe
Confessiondedaigneuse.
WhenIaskedwhatjustifiedthesenseofauthor-itythatBretonembodied,heexplaineditwasthroughthistext.Ihadreadthe
FirstManifesto
andfounditunreadable.1toldLeirissofrankly.'Perhaps,'hereplied.'Butwhatabout
Poissonsoluble?'Poissonsoluble
wasthetextpublishedwiththe
Manifesto
whichBretonofferedasanexampleofautomaticwriting.Mytimidity,mystupidityandmydistrust,allofwhichconditionedmyjudgement,weresogreatthatIresolvedtoconsiderwhatitwasthatLeirisfeltwithsuchabsoluteconviction.Withmorehonesty,Istrovetoadmirethe
Confession
(itwasmydishonestythatmademelike
Poissonsoluble),
butInevermanagedto.
If
Iadmiredit,itwasgrudgingly,orverbally,andnotwithoutremorseandmisgivings.Bretondeclared,withthattoneofexasper-ationbywhichheskilfullyexpandedandthenrelaxedhissentences:'Inevermakeplans'(withoneexception,hesaid,expressingthecom-placencywithwhichhepretendedtoaccedetothoseofothers).FromthebeginningIfounditdifficulttobelieveinwhatseemedtometobeuneasypretensionandnomorethanaplan.ButasIhadplansmyselfthesedoubtsstruckmeasshameful!Iwasinclinedtobequietandunderwentaseveretest,inwhichIhypocriticallydecidedtooutdoincontentionthemostcontentiouslawyer.ThemethodtowhichBretonreducedliterature.fautomaticwriting,boredmeorhadonlyalabouredamusement.Iwasasfondofdisorientatinggamesasthenextmanbut,inmyhumblecondescen-sionandprovocativetimidity,onlyinanidleway.Butwhatdidseemtomeadmirableaboutthemethodwasthatitremovedliteraturefromthevanityofpersonaladvantage,whichIhadperhapsrenouncedmyself,butasawriterrenouncesit,withmixedfeelings:'automaticwriting'alonestoodout,itstoodoutagainstsomeonewhohadmixedfeelings.ButitseemedtomethatifBretonrequiredsilencefromhislisteners,hedidnotkeepquiethimself.Ithereforeneedednotonlyto

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