[NetBehaviour] A Cavalier History of Surrealism.

marc garrett marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Sat Oct 4 15:49:12 CEST 2008

A Cavalier History of Surrealism.

Jules-François Dupuis [Raoul Vaneigem]


The radical consciousness cannot be reconciled with ideology, whose only 
function is to mystify. What the acutest eighteenth-century 
consciousness perceived for the most part, in the void left behind by 
the ebb tide of divine consciousness, was the suffering of separation, 
isolation and alienation. Disenchantment (in the literal sense of the 
end of the spell cast by a unifying God) thus went hand in hand with an 
awareness of contradictions that had no chance of being resolved or 

As all sectors of human activity proceeded to break apart from one 
another, culture, just as much as the economic, social or political 
spheres, became a separate realm, an autonomous entity. And as the 
masters of the economy gradually built up their hegemony over society as 
a whole, artists, writers and thinkers were left in possession of the 
consciousness of an independent cultural domain which the imperialism of 
the economy would be very slow to colonize. They turned this domain into 
a citadel of the gratuitous, but they acted as mercenaries of dominant 
ideas as often as they raised the flag of rebellion or revolution.

Author's Note:

Commissioned in 1970 by a French publisher who planned to issue a series 
intended for high-school pupils, this Histoire désinvolte du surréalisme 
was written in a couple of weeks under the pressure of a contractual 
deadline. The fact that the original bearer of the name chosen as a 
pseudonym, “Jules-François Dupuis”, was the janitor of the building 
where Lautréamont died, and a witness to his death certificate, should 
be a clear enough sign that this book is not one of those that are 
particularly dear to my heart; it was merely a diversion.

When the original publisher’s projected series was abandoned, the 
manuscript was returned to me. It then languished for some years at the 
house of a friend, who in 1976 showed it to a young publisher of her 
acquaintance. As a result it was published a year later (Nonville: Paul 
Vermont). It was reprinted in 1988 (Paris: L’Instant). Perhaps it is 
fair to say that, despite its polemical character and peremptory tone, 
it remains a useful “schoolbook” – and one which may steer those just 
discovering Surrealism away from a certain number of received ideas.

Histoire désinvolte du surréalisme (Nonville: Paul Vermont, 1977)
Translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith (AK Press, 1999)

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