The Birth of Belgian Surrealism

by Jan Baetens (Author) Michael Kasper (Author)
©2016 Monographs XI, 110 Pages
Series: Belgian Francophone Library, Volume 27


Correspondance is the name of a Belgian Surrealist magazine published in 1924–1925 by Paul Nougé, Camille Goemans, and Marcel Lecomte. It is considered as seminal as Breton’s «Surrealist Manifesto» (1924). The texts were tart, obscure responses to the arcane literary debates of the time, in particular those underway in André Breton’s circle in Paris. Twenty-two issues of Correspondance were printed, in a modernist typeface on different color papers, and were distributed by mail to selected recipients. Unlike their Parisian associates, the Belgians made an explicit choice against the book as a host medium for literary and other experiments. Nougé, the chief theorist, and his colleagues remained suspicious throughout their careers not only of commercialized literature, but also of literature itself, which they saw as a means to political action, never a goal in itself. Although little recognized, Belgian Surrealists and Correspondance, their earliest manifestation, remain anticipatory and influential in modernist writing practice, especially for their ephemeral style of publishing (proto-mail art) and their intentional plagiarisms (precursor to Situationist détournement).

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Michel Delville, Preface
  • Jan Baetens and Michael Kasper, Surrealism in Belgium or Belgian Surrealism?
  • Paul Nougé, Camille Goemans, and Marcel Lecomte, Correspondance (22 tracts, translations and commentaries by Jan Baetens and Michael Kasper)
  • Marc Quaghebeur, Unveiling Nougé. Some Notes on Nougé’s Philosophy and the Conférence de Charleroi
  • Series index

| VI →


Many persons and institutions have to be thanked for their role in the various phases of this book.

First of all, we are grateful to all inheritors of the Correspondance tracts and their legal representatives: Pierrette Broodthaers and SABAM Belgium (for Paul Nougé), Camille-Grégor Goemans (for Camille Goemans), and Philippe Dewolf and the Musée des Beaux-Arts Brussels (for Marcel Lecomte). Not only have they kindly granted permission to translate and reprint this work, but in many cases their knowledge and expertise has helped solve riddles in the text.

We would like to extend our special thanks to all those who during the many years of this project have been supporting of our work: Marc Quaghebeur, managing director of the Archives et Musée de la littérature (Brussels), who has accompanied our enterprise from the very beginning till the very end, Paul Aron, professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, whose first French facsimile edition was an indispensable working instrument, Eric Wirth, Associate Managing Editor of PMLA, whose careful and professional help was key in the publication of some first fragments of the English Correspondance (“The Birth of ← VII | VIII → Belgian Surrealism: Excerpts from Correspondance (1924–1925)”, PMLA 128.2 (2013), 452–467), Philippe Met, professor of Romance Languages at the University of Pennsylvania and Editor in chief of French Forum, who accepted to publish a commented version of some other fragments (“Correspondance: Mail Art and Literary Appropriation in the 1920s”, in French Forum 38.1/2 (2013), 109–126), Michel Delville, Prof. of American Studies at the Université de Liège who kindly accepted our invitation to write a preface, Donald Friedman, who very enthusiastically accepted our work for publication in this series, and Mary Kasper, who assisted in production.

Our most sincere thanks as well to the institutions that helped make possible the actual production of this book: the Archives et musée de la littérature as well as Xavier Canonne, director of the Musée de la Photographie (Charleroi), for their invaluable help with all practical and legal issues related to the iconography, the University of Leuven (MDRN research project) and BELSPO (Belgian Science Policy Office, IAP Program 7/01, LMI: Literature and Media Innovation), which generously supported this project. We thank also the Service de la Promotion des lettres as well as the Académie royale de langue et de littérature françaises de Belgique, which also provided a special grant to this publication.

With the generous support of:

| IX →



XI, 110
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (September)
Paul Nougé Camille Goemans André Breton Marcel Lecomte
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. XI, 110 pp., num. ill.

Biographical notes

Jan Baetens (Author) Michael Kasper (Author)

Jan Baetens (PhD, University of Leuven) is Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Leuven, where he is teaching and researching on word and image relationships in so-called minor genres. His most recent book is The Graphic Novel: An Introduction (2014), co-authored with Hugo Frey. A published poet, in 2007 he received the triennial prize for poetry of Francophone Belgium for his collection Cent fois sur le métier. Michael Kasper is a retired academic librarian and a longtime book artist and translator. He has translated works from French, German, and Polish. Open-Book (2010) is his tenth collection of illustrated texts since the early 1970s.


Title: Correspondance
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
125 pages