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A Basic Theory of NeuropsychoanalysisA Cursing Brain?A Dream of Undying FameA Map of the MindAfter LacanAgainst AdaptationAgainst FreudAn Anatomy of AddictionAnalytic FreudAndré Green at the Squiggle FoundationAnger, Madness, and the DaimonicAnna FreudAnna Freud: A BiographyApproaching PsychoanalysisAttachment and PsychoanalysisBadiouBecoming a SubjectBefore ForgivingBerlin PsychoanalyticBetween Emotion and CognitionBeyond GenderBeyond SexualityBeyond the Pleasure PrincipleBiology of FreedomBoundaries and Boundary Violations in PsychoanalysisBuilding on BionCare of the PsycheCarl JungCassandra's DaughterCherishmentConfusion of TonguesContemporary Psychoanalysis and the Legacy of the Third ReichCrucial Choices, Crucial ChangesCulture and Conflict in Child and Adolescent Mental HealthDarwin's WormsDesert Islands and Other Texts (1953-1974)Dispatches from the Freud WarsDoes the Woman Exist?Doing Psychoanalysis in TehranDreaming and Other Involuntary MentationDreaming by the BookEnergy 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Floyd ArchivesIntimaciesIntimate RevoltIrrationalityIs Oedipus Online?Jacques LacanJacques Lacan and the Freudian Practice of PsychoanalysisJung and the Making of Modern PsychologyJung Stripped BareKilling FreudLacanLacanLacanLacan and Contemporary FilmLacan at the SceneLacan For BeginnersLacan in AmericaLacan TodayLacan's Seminar on AnxietyLawLearning from Our MistakesLove's ExecutionerMad Men and MedusasMale Female EmailMelanie KleinMemoirs of My Nervous IllnessMental SlaveryMind to MindMixing MindsMoral StealthMourning and ModernityMovies and the MindMurder in ByzantiumNew Studies of Old VillainsNocturnesNoir AnxietyOn Being Normal and Other DisordersOn BeliefOn IncestOn Not Being Able to SleepOn the Freud WatchOn the Way HomeOpen MindedOpera's Second DeathOvercoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and BehaviorsPhenomology & Lacan on Schizophrenia, After the Decade of the BrainPhilosophical Counselling and the UnconsciousPractical Psychoanalysis for Therapists and PatientsPsychiatry, 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WorldThe Brain, the Mind and the SelfThe Cambridge Companion to LacanThe Challenge for Psychoanalysis and PsychotherapyThe Clinical LacanThe Colonization Of Psychic SpaceThe Condition of MadnessThe Couch and the TreeThe Cruelty of DepressionThe Dissociative Mind in PsychoanalysisThe Dreams of InterpretationThe Examined LifeThe Fall Of An IconThe Freud EncyclopediaThe Freud FilesThe Freud WarsThe Fright of Real TearsThe Future of PsychoanalysisThe Gift of TherapyThe Heart & Soul of ChangeThe Knotted SubjectThe Last Good FreudianThe Late Sigmund FreudThe Letters of Sigmund Freud and Otto RankThe Mind According to ShakespeareThe Mystery of PersonalityThe Mythological UnconsciousThe Neuropsychology of the UnconsciousThe New PsychoanalysisThe Power of FeelingsThe Psychoanalytic MovementThe Psychoanalytic MysticThe Psychoanalytic Study of the ChildThe Psychoanalytic Study of the ChildThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Puppet and the DwarfThe Real World Guide to Psychotherapy 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Surrealist Painters and PoetsReview - Surrealist Painters and Poets
An Anthology
by Mary Ann Caws (Editor)
MIT Press, 2001
Review by Marilyn Graves, Ph.D.
Jun 3rd 2004 (Volume 8, Issue 23)

This weighty tome might be used as a text for a class on Surrealism but is worth buying and reading in its own right.  It is a collection of memoirs, prose text, poetry, and art.  Its one disappointment is that the illustrations are all in black and white.

 In her introduction, Caws says that this book is a follow-up to Robert Motherwell's book on Dadaism.  She presents an interview she did with Motherwell that has some definitions as well as lovely, gossipy tidbits.  Of surrealism Caws says, Surrealism connects.  It celebrates the possibility of—in fact, it claims the existence of—a capillary tissue that enables a mental circulation between states of being, emotions, worlds, . . . " and she quotes Andre Breton as saying 'plunging the human consciousness into the unlimited connectedness of an eternal being, falling with the stone, flying with the birds . . . in whom, far from annihilating themselves, all the adverse wills of all things are combined and marvelously limited'" (pp. xxviii-xxx).   

 My favorite of the entries were the paintings like Man Ray's "Portrait Through Wire" (p. 44).  Or Victor Brauner's "The Crime of the Butterfly King" (p. 112).  Or Yves Tanguy's "Fear" (p. 376).  Or Dorothea Tanning's "Guardian Angles" (p. 404).  All have a disquieting effect as if something slithered out of the unconscious and reared its head at us.  Another example is Rene Magritte's "Le Balcon de Manet" (p. 432) which depicts coffins on a balcony, one of which is seated as the person who occupies it might have been, gazing out across it's familiar domestic vista. 

 It is difficult to understand the impact some of the entries must have had.  They are no longer fresh.  Like Paul Nouge's  "nothing but nothing that is nothing"  which occupies a full page all in caps, giant letters marching across the blank whiteness.   Rene Char's terse "I do not banter with pigs" (p. 161), a verse complete,  is still fresh though.   Many entries are in some way related to dreams or dreamlike imagery.  A surprising number of the prose entries mention feelings about religion, especially the Catholic church.  There are a few surrealist games. There is a scenario for Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali's "L'Age D'Or."

 In a world of low cal blandness, many of the prose sections are full of creamy goodness.  Like Breton's "Less time than it takes to say it, fewer tears than it takes to die;  I've taken count of everything, there you have it.  I've made a census of the stones; they are numerous as my fingers and some others; I've  handed out some pamphlets to the plants, but not all were willing to accept . . . " (p. 129).   Or there is Breton's poetry "With his radium bougie he quickens the dregs of the human crucible" (p. 130).

 I suppose some people might think some of the entries are a bit over the top but I am compelled.  For example, Rene Crevel's  "They said you were mad, Amie, and they locked you up.  Yet you alone were right. Flesh, beautiful white flesh.  Tonight the storm will tear ravenously at the clouds as teeth tear at bellies.  In the cemetery, the Queen has consumed in one fell swoop her supply of drugs, and collapses on the cold marble.  Babylon, Babylon, Babylon, Amie howls aloud her passion.  She is placed in a straitjacket.  Babylon, Babylon, Babylon.  And that house facing the sea will never be finished.  Petitdemange, alone with his blond beard, looks on all this drama as devilishly Ibsenesque.  Happy are those who can escape the debacle in their Patagonia of frozen stones." (p. 175).  (No doubt it sounds even better in its native French).  Looking at this passage, it is clear that there is no firm demarcation between prose and poetry.

 Then there is the this from Tristan Tzara, "Before night falls, in this moment as disturbing as air suspended between liquid and solid states, when everything hides its face in shame, even the noises take flight, timidly, when the feeling that a vase is about to overflow plants itself with anguish in each breast as if another announcement of the death of someone we love, of his awful suicide, were going to strike us, when this hatred of life can transform sorrow into an immense gratitude, when the heaps of corpses warming the winter frozen in us,  . . ." (p. 415).   I didn't misquote it, it has a nonlinear quality.   The noises are like birds, taking flight.  There is a cognitive slip at "plants" when the plants we imagine in a vase become planted in that anguished breast. 

One can present an analysis of content or make commentary on the work as a whole, but this is one instance where you had to be there.   Though I've given you a sample, there is really no substitute for actually reading this volume.


© 2004 Marilyn Graves



Marilyn Graves Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and freelance writer.


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