“Surrealism is now associated more with whimsy than with the lacerating and uncanny effects first sought by the French poets who first formulated its principles . . . [Surreal Lives is] a lively and absorbing complement to their work.”The New Yorker
The Surrealists 1917-1945
978-0-8021-3727-2 • $16.00 • Paperback • Sep. 2000
In the years following World War I, a small group of writers, painters, and filmmakers set out to change the way we perceive the world. They called themselves the Surrealists, and their aim was to revolutionize the arts, and through them everything else. In Surreal Lives Ruth Brandon follows their lives and interconnections, as the primal scream that was Dada evolved into Surrealism, the movement that raged through the art world until the end of World War II.
The interaction of such firecracker minds as André Breton, Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, Salvador Dalí, Man Ray, Max Ernst, and Luis Buñuel defined what we now think of as Surrealism. No artist worked without the encouragement or disapproval of the group, and the group ethos was at the heart of the movement. Surreal Lives charts the delicate balance of power laid waste by the chaotic, antic genius of Tristan Tzara and Salvador Dalí, and it describes Breton’s struggle to hold the reins of the unruly mass and to expel his challengers from the group. It tells the story of charismatic Jacques Vaché, whose suicide was declared the ultimate Surreal act; of the movement’s long and strange flirtation with the Communist Party and of its migration to New York; of the power—creative and destructive—that Gala Eluard held over Paul Eluard and Dalí. Ruth Brandon spins the many stories of Surrealism with wit, energy, and insight, bringing sharp analysis to an eccentric cast of characters whose struggles and achievements came to mirror and define the way the world changed between the wars.