Anthology of Black Humor  

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Anthology of Black Humor (1940, Anthologie de l'humour noir) is an anthology of 'black humor' texts selected by and commented upon by André Breton.

It is currently in print in a 1997 City Lights Bookstore with an English translation by Mark Polizzotti.

Its original distribution was immediately banned by the Vichy goverment. It was reprinted in 1947 after Breton´s return from exile, with a few additions. In 1966, Breton, "having resisted the temptation to add more names", published the book again and this edition was called "the definitive" by the him.

The anthology not only introduced some until then almost unknown or forgotten writers, it also coined the term "black humor" (as Breton said, until then the term had meant nothing, unless someone imagined jokes about black people ). The term became globally used since then. The choice of authors was done entirely by Breton and according to his taste which he explains in the Foreword (called The Lightning Rod, a term suggested by Lichtenberg), a work of great depth that starts with contemplating Rimbaud´s words "Emanations, explosions ..." from Rimbaud´s last poem The barrack-room of night : Dream. The authors, each introduced by a preface by Breton and represented by a few pages from their writings, are sorted chronologically. The book is still in print. It was translated into several languages; into English by Mark Polizzotti in 1997.

Publishing history

Originally published by Éditions du Sagittaire.

Notes to the English translation

This is the first publication in English of the anthology that contains Breton's definitive statement on l'humour noir, one of the seminal concepts of Surrealism, and his provocative assessments of the writers he most admired. While some of the authors featured in the Anthology of Black Humor are already well known to American readers-Swift, Kafka, Rimbaud, Poe, Lewis Carroll, and Baudelaire among them (and even then, Breton's selections are often surprising)-many others are sure to come as a revelation.
The entries range from the acerbic aphorisms of Swift, Lichtenberg, and Duchamp to the theatrical slapstick of Christian Dietrich Grabbe, from the wry missives of Rimbaud and Jacques Vaché to the manic paranoia of Dali, from the ferocious iconoclasm of Alfred Jarry and Arthur Cravan to the offhand hilarity of Apollinaire at his most spontaneous. For each of the forty-five authors included, Breton has provided an enlightening biographical and critical preface, situating both the writer and the work in the context of black humor-a partly macabre, partly ironic, and often absurd turn of spirit that Breton defined as "a superior revolt of the mind."
The translator Mark Polizzotti is the author of Revolution of the Mind: The Life of André Breton. --from the publisher (ISBN 0872863212)

Contents of the 1966 "definitive" edition

The anthology contains the following excerpts, each introduced by a commentary by Breton:

Others works excerped include: Louis Aragon's 1928 Treatise on Style. Freud's 1928 Humor from International journal of psychoanalysis 9 1-6 (republished in Collected papers of Sigmung Freud vol.5).

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Anthology of Black Humor" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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