Chapter Four - Statuephobia! Surrealism and iconoclasm in the Bronze Age 147
147 Chapter Four Statuophobia! Surrealism and iconoclasm in the Bronze Age Part One When bronze was like ink… The introduction to Louis Aragon’s 1928 Treatise on Style is subtitled ‘The Fate of La Fontaine’ and contains a shooting gallery within which the author permits himself the pleasure of carefully arranging his targets. After an initial cautionary tale equating literature and excrement, which warns of letting such ‘eminently French matter slip through our fingers’, Aragon proceeds with a strategy which he perfected in his surrealist texts: the systematic reduction of his subject matter to its lowest common denominator. 1 The ‘treatise’, however, goes much further than the author’s previous attacks on bourgeois taste, and as the title suggests, contains in its very style, incontrovertible proof of its efficacy. It is the way Aragon makes his case that raises the argument above petty questions concerning the legitimacy of examples, or the difference between right and wrong. Within this highly seductive text, people and things cease to be themselves, borrowing a little from André Breton’s liken- ing of people to their attributes through surrealism; Swift (for ex- ample) is ‘surrealist in malice’. 2 Aragon, however, has no intention of singling out qualities or attributes, insisting instead upon a base matter to which all literary substance eventually reverts. This ‘dung’, as he calls it, will be dealt with by an ever present, pan-historical race of stableboys: 1 L. Aragon, Treatise on Style, trans. A. Waters, Nebraska, 1991, pp.7–10. 2 A. Breton, ‘First Manifesto...
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