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The Birth of Belgian Surrealism


Jan Baetens and Michael Kasper

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).
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About the author(s)/editor(s)


Jan Baetens (Ph.D., 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.

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