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This review is taken from PN Review 34, Volume 10 Number 2, November - December 1983.

THEORETICAL POETHICS Poems of André Breton: a bilingual anthology translated and edited by Jean-Pierre Cauvin and Mary Ann Caws (University of Texas Press) £20.65, £9.75 pb.

For a figure of undeniable influence, 'one of the centres of gravity in our time' in the opinion of Octavio Paz, André Breton remains an oddly neglected writer, generally regarded as the encourager of greatness in others rather than a significant author in his own right. Much the best-known of Breton's writings are the manifestos of the 1920s in which he canvassed the claims of the 'pure psychic acts of automatism' which he called, developing a notion of Apollinaire's, Surrealism. These provided a rationale, if one may so call it, for any number of writers and painters of the 1920s and 1930s all of whom were, for a time at least, prepared to forget their differences and make common cause together. Even in decline Breton attracted the young and gifted to work with him towards the realization of the movement's aims. It was the collaborative spirit, as manifested in journals, public meetings, anthologies and just about anything that could be called a creative enterprise, which was the hallmark of Surrealism in its heyday, and it is this spirit which survives in post-Surrealist activity today. Only a man of immense personal magnetism could have fomented what was effectively the last great international cultural movement, and this Breton undoubtedly was. But the dynamic, 'convulsive' forces which the movement generated were to prove too strong for any one person to take charge of them, and a succession of internecine feuds and more or less acrimonious secessions from Breton's tutelage left him an ...


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