Wednesday, April 7, 2010
SURREALISM: THE ROAD TO THE ABSOLUTE by Anna Balakian
Anna Balakian's now-classic work on Surrealism is a useful introduction to the movement--and the chapter on "The Surrealist Image" is very good--but the book suffers from the author's personal and intellectual proximity to the magnetic personality of Andre Breton. Even when one allows for the fact that Balakian's book is over 50 years old, her view of Surrealism still seems excessively Bretonian. Georges Bataille's name, for example, doesn't even appear in the index, and Bataille's circle, the focus of much recent writing on the movement, is entirely ignored. The book also has a pronounced literary bias: very good in its coverage of poetry, it flounders in a too-brief discussion of Surrealist painting, arguably the movement's most important legacy. One might correct Balakian's bias by reading her book in conjunction with the 2001-02 Tate/Met exhibition catalog Surrealism: Desire Unbound, a book worth owning for its illustrations alone (the text is a bit too Lacanian for me).