October 07, 2013

Entry # 1

'After you have settled yourself in a place as favorable as possible to the concentration of your mind upon itself, have writing materials brought to you. Put yourself in as passive, or receptive, a state of mind as you can. Forget about your genius, your talents, and the talents of everyone else. Keep reminding yourself that literature is one of the saddest roads that leads to everything. Write quickly, without any preconceived subject, fast enough so that you will not remember what you're writing and be tempted to reread what you have written. The first sentence will come spontaneously, so compelling is the truth that with every passing second there is a sentence unknown to our consciousness which is only crying out to be heard. It is somewhat of a problem to form an opinion about the next sentence; it doubtless partakes both of our conscious activity and of the other, if one agrees that the fact of having written the first entails a minimum of perception. This should be of no importance to you, however; to a large extent, this is what is most interesting and intriguing about the Surrealist game. The fact still remains that punctuation no doubt resists the absolute continuity of the flow with which we are concerned, although it may seem as necessary as the arrangement of knots in a vibrating cord. Go on as long as you like. Put your trust in the inexhaustible nature of the murmur. If silence threatens to settle in if you should ever happen to make a mistake -- a mistake, perhaps due to carelessness -- break off without hesitation with an overly clear line. Following a word the origin of which seems suspicious to you, place any letter whatsoever, the letter "l" for example, always the letter "l," and bring the arbitrary back by making this letter the first of the following word.' (1)

These are André Bréton's instructions on how to write 'a first and last draft' Surrealist text. The first thing I saw when I read it was a contradiction, as Bréton is fixated with the influence of the Unconcious (in the Freudian sense of the word) yet he focuses thoroughly on the process of writing itself. This would seem, to me, to be counterproductive, as to over-think the act is to alter the product. It is very difficult to actually write freely and honestly when someone has instructed you to do so. That was Bréton's general approach though. He encouraged total liberation of the psyche and particularly favoured taboo expression, believing it to be the rawest form of human truth, yet ruled out those who didn't fit his precise judgement (2). His choosy censorship, much like his advice for writing, strikes me as a clash with his fundamental philosophy that the mind should be allowed to run free.

(1) Translated from the original French text. Sourced online: http://www.tcf.ua.edu/Classes/Jbutler/T340/SurManifesto/ManifestoOfSurrealism.htm

(2) Hughes, Robert. The Shock of the New; Art and the Century of Change. London (1980), British Broadcasting Cooperation

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