Surrealist Manifesto  

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"This specific problem has confronted the most perceptive students of the avantgarde and has been dealt with at length in an excellent essay by the German poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger, The Aporias of the Avant-Garde (1962). Enzensberger writes, commenting on the opening statement of Breton's First Surrealist Manifesto:

"Only the word freedom can still fill me with enthusiasm. I consider it suited to keep the old human fanaticism upright for an indefinite time yet to come."

"With these words, André Breton, in the year 1924, opens the first Surrealist Manifesto. The new doctrine crystallizes, as always, around its yearning for absolute freedom. The word fanaticism is already an indication that this freedom can be acquired only at the price of absolute discipline: within a few years, the surrealist guard spins itself into a cocoon of regulations." --Five Faces of Modernity (1977) by Matei Călinescu

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Two Surrealist Manifestos were issued by the Surrealist movement, in 1924 and 1929. The first was written by André Breton, the second was supervised by him. Breton drafted a third Surrealist manifesto which was never issued.


First manifesto (1924)

The first Surrealist manifesto was written by the French writer André Breton on October 15 1924 and released to the public in 1925. It was originally conceived as a preface to Breton's poetry collection Poisson soluble (Soluble Fish)

The document defines Surrealism as:

Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express -- verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner -- the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by the thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.

The text includes numerous examples of the applications of Surrealism to poetry and literature, but makes it clear that the tenets of Surrealism can be applied in any circumstance of life, and is not merely restricted to the artistic realm. The importance of the dream as a reservoir of Surrealist inspiration is also highlighted.

Breton also discusses his initial encounter with the surreal in a famous description of a hypnagogic state that he experienced in which a strange phrase inexplicably appeared in his mind: There is a man cut in two by the window. This phrase echoes Breton's apprehension of Surrealism as the juxtaposition of two distant realities brought together to create a new, uncanny union.

The manifesto also refers to the numerous precursors of Surrealism that embodied the Surrealist spirit prior to his composing the manifesto, including such luminaries as the Marquis de Sade, Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, Lautréamont, Raymond Roussel, and even back as far as Dante.

The works of several of his contemporaries in developing the Surrealist style in poetry are also quoted, including texts by Philippe Soupault, Paul Éluard, Robert Desnos and Louis Aragon, among others.

The manifesto was written with a great deal of absurdist humor, demonstrating the influence of the Dada movement which immediately preceded it in France, and in which Breton was also a key player.

The text concludes by asserting that Surrealist activity follows no set plan or conventional pattern, and that Surrealists are ultimately nonconformists.

Signers of the manifesto included Louis Aragon, Antonin Artaud, Jacques Baron, Joe Bousquet, Jacques-André Boiffard, Jean Carrive, René Crevel, Robert Desnos, Paul Éluard, Max Ernst, and Breton.


  • "I could spend my whole life prying loose the secrets of the insane. These people are honest to a fault, and their naiveté has no peer but my own."
  • "We are still living under the reign of logic: this, of course, is what I have been driving at. But in this day and age logical methods are applicable only to solving problems of secondary interest."
  • "Let us not mince words: the marvelous is always beautiful, anything marvelous is beautiful, in fact only the marvelous is beautiful."
  • "Surrealism will usher you into death, which is a secret society. It will glove your hand, burying therein the profound M with which the word Memory begins."
  • "Surrealism does not allow those who devote themselves to it to forsake it whenever they like. There is every reason to believe that it acts on the mind very much as drugs do; like drugs, it creates a certain state of need and can push man to frightful revolts."
  • "In this realm as in any other, I believe in the pure Surrealist joy of the man who, forewarned that all others before him have failed, refuses to admit defeat, sets off from whatever point he chooses, along any other path save a reasonable one, and arrives wherever he can."
  • "It is living and ceasing to live which are imaginary solutions. Existence is elsewhere."

List of proto-surrealists

"In the course of the various attempts I have made to reduce what is, by breach of trust, called genius, I have found nothing which in the final analysis can be attributed to any other method than that."
  • Young's Nights are Surrealist from one end to the other; unfortunately it is a priest who is speaking, a bad priest no doubt, but a priest nonetheless.
  • Swift is Surrealist in malice,
  • Sade is Surrealist in sadism.
  • Chateaubriand is Surrealist in exoticism.
  • Constant is Surrealist in politics.
  • Hugo is Surrealist when he isn't stupid.
  • Desbordes-Valmore is Surrealist in love.
  • Bertrand is Surrealist in the past.
  • Rabbe is Surrealist in death.
  • Poe is Surrealist in adventure.
  • Baudelaire is Surrealist in morality.
  • Rimbaud is Surrealist in the way he lived, and elsewhere.
  • Mallarmé is Surrealist when he is confiding.
  • Jarry is Surrealist in absinthe.
  • Nouveau is Surrealist in the kiss.
  • Saint-Pol-Roux is Surrealist in his use of symbols.
  • Fargue is Surrealist in the atmosphere.
  • Vaché is Surrealist in me.
  • Reverdy is Surrealist at home.
  • Saint-Jean-Perse is Surrealist at a distance.
  • Roussel is Surrealist as a storyteller.

Second manifesto

Main: Second manifeste du surréalisme

In 1929 Breton asked Surrealists to assess their "degree of moral competence", and along with other theoretical refinements issued the Second manifeste du surréalisme. The proclaimation excluded Surrealists reluctant to commit to collective action: Leiris, Limbour, Morise, Baron, Queneau, Prévert, Desnos, Masson and Boiffard. They moved to the periodical Documents, edited by Georges Bataille, whose anti-idealist materialism produced a hybrid Surrealism exposed the base instincts of humans.

Third manifesto

Breton drafted a third manifesto which was never issued.

See also

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

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