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Title: Surreal Lives: The Surrealists 1917-1945.
Publisher: Grove Press, New York
Publication Date: 1999
Edition: First Printing of the First Edition
About this title
In the years following World War I, a small group of writers, painters, and filmmakers called the Surrealists set out to change the way we perceive the world. In Surreal Lives, Ruth Brandon follows the lives and interactions of such firecracker minds as the movement's didactic "Pope", Andre Breton and the ambitious and manic Salvador Dali, as well as Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, Tristan Tzara, Man Ray, Max Ernst, and filmmaker Luis Bunuel. It charts the shifting allegiances, such muses and patrons as Gala Dali and Peggy Guggenheim. 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.Review:
Playful, amusing, frivolous, and bizarre. As Ruth Brandon points out in the preface to her marvelous Surreal Lives, surrealism has passed into everyday life as a byword for the strange. However, as this wonderfully exhaustive book point outs, the intellectual and political drive behind the movement was in fact highly revolutionary. What Brandon proceeds to unfold is a kaleidoscopic cultural history of the movement, which by 1924 had self-consciously adopted the title "surrealism," from its emergence in the midst of the ashes of interwar Zurich dada to its enforced relocation to New York in the 1940s. Along the way Surreal Lives deftly weaves a fascinating account of the cultural, artistic, political, personal, and sexual dynamics of the men and women who defined the movement from the 1920s onward.
The personal and artistic connections between the usual suspects of Apollinaire, Picabia, Man Ray, Duchamp, Buñuel, and Dalí are all traced in extensive and highly entertaining detail. And at the book's center lies the pompous, autocratic, charismatic figure of André Breton and his creative but highly volatile relations with the entire cast--from his feuds with Tristan Tzara to his ultimate disillusion with Dalí. Following Breton's enigmatic career, the book moves beautifully between the revolutionary aspirations of the movement and the endemic literary squabbles that often blunted its radicalism. Brandon is particularly successful at uncovering the importance of the various women who had such a decisive impact upon the development of surrealism, as well as offering a range of salacious and often wonderfully incongruous encounters, such as the aged Erik Satie's involvement in the creation of Marcel Duchamp's The Gift. How surreal. --Jerry Brotton, Amazon.co.uk
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