The Surrealist Manifesto refers to a collection of several publications between Yvan Goll and André Breton, prior leaders of rival Surrealist groups. Goll and Breton had both originally published manifestos in October 1924 titled Manifeste du surréalisme. Breton later wrote a second in 1929, publishing it the following year, with his third manifesto in 1942.
Leading up to 1924, two rival surrealist groups had formed. Each group claimed to be a successor of a revolution launched by Guillaume Apollinaire. One group, led by Yvan Goll, included Pierre Albert-Birot, Paul Dermée, Céline Arnauld, Francis Picabia, Tristan Tzara, Giuseppe Ungaretti, Pierre Reverdy, Marcel Arland, Joseph Delteil, Jean Painlevé and Robert Delaunay, among others. The other group, led by Breton, included Louis Aragon, Robert Desnos, Paul Éluard, Jacques Baron, Jacques-André Boiffard, Jean Carrive, René Crevel, Georges Malkine and others.
Yvan Goll published the Manifeste du Surréalisme on October 1, 1924, in his first and only issue of Surréalisme, two weeks prior to the release of Breton's Manifeste du Surréalisme, published by Éditions du Sagittaire on October 15, 1924.
Goll and Breton had overtly conflicting beliefs, at one point fighting at the Comédie des Champs-Élysées over the rights to the term "Surrealism". In the end, Breton won the battle through tactical and numerical superiority. The quarrel over who first described Surrealism as an artistic movement concluded with Breton's victory.
Still, the history of surrealism remained marked by fractures, resignations, and resounding ex-communications, with each surrealist having their own view of the issue and goals, and yet accepting, more or less, the definitions laid out by André Breton.
Breton wrote another Surrealist manifesto, also published in 1924 as a booklet entitled Editions du Sagittaire. 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 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 in poetry and literature, but makes it clear that its basic tenets can be applied to any circumstance of life and are 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. He described this as a strange phrase inexplicably appearing 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" united to create a new one.
The manifesto also refers to the numerous precursors of Surrealism that embodied the Surrealist spirit, including the Marquis de Sade, Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, Comte de Lautréamont, Raymond Roussel, and Dante. The works of several of his contemporaries in developing the Surrealist style in poetry are also quoted, including Philippe Soupault, Paul Éluard, Robert Desnos and Louis Aragon.
The manifesto was written with a great deal of absurdist humor, demonstrating the influence of the Dada movement that preceded it.
The text concludes by asserting that surrealist activity follows no set plan or conventional pattern and that Surrealists are ultimately nonconformists.
The manifesto named the following, among others, as participants in the Surrealist movement: Louis Aragon, André Breton, Robert Desnos, Paul Éluard, Jacques Baron, Jacques-André Boiffard, Jean Carrive, René Crevel and Georges Malkine.
In 1929, Breton asked Surrealists to assess their "degree of moral competence" and, along with other theoretical refinements, issued the Second Manifeste du Surréalisme (1930). The manifesto excommunicated Surrealists reluctant to commit to collective action: Baron, Robert Desno, Boiffard, Michel Leiris, Raymond Queneau, Jacques Prévert and André Masson. A prière d'insérer (printed insert) was published with the manifesto. The insert was signed by the Surrealists who both remained loyal to Breton and agreed to participate in Surrealism at the Service of the Revolution. This was a new publication.
Participating Surrealists loyal to Breton included Maxime Alexander, Louis Aragon, Joe Bousquet, Luis Buñuel, René Char, René Crevel, Salvador Dalí, Paul Eluard, Max Ernst, Marcel Fourrier, Camille Goemans, Paul Nougé, Benjamin Péret, Francis Ponge, Marko Ristić, Georges Sadoul, Yves Tanguy, André Thirion, Tristan Tzara and Albert Valentin. Along with Ristić, the Belgrade surrealists grouped around Nadrealista Danas i Ovde were aligned with Breton.
Desnos and others, thrown out by Breton, moved to the periodical Documents. It was edited by Georges Bataille, whose anti-idealist materialism produced a hybrid Surrealism exposing the base instincts of humans.
Breton wrote another manifesto on Surrealism in 1942.
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