This is Breton’s definitive statement on l’humour noir, one of the seminal concepts of Surrealism.
In his provocative anthology of the writers he most admires, Breton discusses the acerbic aphorisms of Swift, Lichtenberg and Duchamp, the theatrical slapstick of Christian Dietrich Grabbe, the wry missives of Rimbaud, the manic paranoia of Dali, the ferocious iconoclasm of Alfred Jarry and Arthur Cravan and the offhand hilarity of Apollinaire.
For each of the authors included, Breton provides an enlightening preface, situating both the writer and the work in the context of black humour – a partly macabre, partly ironic, and often absurd turn of spirit that Breton defined as ‘a superior revolt of the mind’.
About the Author
André Breton (1896–1966), the founder and principal theorist of the Surrealist movement, is one of the major literary figures of the twentieth century. His best-known works in English translation include Nadja, Mad Love, The Manifestoes of Surrealism, The Magnetic Fields (with Philippe Soupault) and Earthlight.
About the Translator
Mark Polizzotti has translated over thirty books from the French, including works by Gustave Flaubert, Marguerite Duras, Raymond Roussel, André Breton, and Jean Echenoz. He has been an editor at Random House, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, David R. Godine, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He currently directs the publications program at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
'One of those books that is influential beyound all commercial measure ... it is pleasant for the Anglophone reader to run into so many texts written originally in English – and yet capable of leaping out at you in the most unexpected way. It's a testament to originality, to defiance of convention, a revolt against sentimentality, and if you ever used the term "black humour" yourself, or expressed a liking for it, then you really ought to have this on your shelf.' Nick Lezard, Guardian