Chapter Two - La Révolution surréaliste – the surrealist revolution 65
65 Chapter Two La Révolution surréaliste – the surrealist revolution La République sera conservatrice ou elle ne sera pas (Adolphe Thiers) .1 La Beauté sera CONVULSIVE ou ne sera pas (André Breton). 2 On 15th October 1923, Albert Mathiez, a professor of History at the University of Dijon, appeared at the Club de Faubourg in Paris, a popular venue renowned for lively debates and theatrical perform- ances, to deliver a eulogy entitled ‘Une figure de la Révolution; Robespierre.’ 3 The episode in itself is unremarkable, although a historian of Mathiez’s reputation, who had only recently edited a prestigious new edition of Jean Jaurès’ Histoire Socialiste, might have been used to lecturing in more salubrious surroundings. What is remarkable is that Mathiez, a committed left-wing intellectual and respected authority on the French Revolution should have been depu- tising for Robert Desnos, a twenty-three year old, little-known poet, at that time associated with the avant-garde literary journal Littérature, a platform for Dada poets and writers in Paris. The circumstances which brought Mathiez and Desnos into synchronous orbit in 1923 mark the unlikely intersection of the three terms central to this book: surrealism, history and revolution. Mathiez’s lecture was the result of a missed appointment, an appointment which Desnos, along with his collaborators Louis Ara- gon, André Breton and Paul Eluard, should perhaps have kept. It was not however, the first incursion that Mathiez had made into the world of avant-garde Parisian literature. In March of the same...
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