Journal of Surrealism and the Americas, Vol 1, No 1 (2007)

Anti-Surrealist Cross-Word Puzzles: Breton, Dalí and Print in Wartime America

Julia Pine


While the earlier affiliation between Salvador Dalí and André Breton had been, for the most part, fruitful and amicable, by the early 1940s when both had relocated to America as exiles from the war in Europe, their relations had become decidedly acrimonious. This animus is graphically revealed in the textual record the two left behind, in the form of treatises, memoirs, popular articles, transcribed lectures and exegeses: documents which map Breton’s efforts to differentiate the Surrealist movement as defined by his own directive, from that of the “popular” variety of Surrealism associated almost exclusively with Dalí in the United States. Likewise, they trace Dalí’s riposte, manifest in an attempt to minimize Breton’s profile in and contribution to Surrealism before an American audience via a program of negation. These “crossed words” document a vicarious “conversation” between Dalí and Breton between 1939 and 1944, when the two increasingly employed various text media to situate themselves and each other in terms of Surrealism in the New World. While not addressing each other directly per se, the “paper trail” in question registers the other’s presence either by direct reference, or conspicuous by its absence, and creates a dialectic that underscores the differences between what the two clearly identified as “orthodox” Surrealism as defined by Breton and his Parisian circle between the wars, and what might be termed “Dalínian” or “commercial” Surrealism – not necessarily endorsed by Dalí, but primarily associated with the artist and his work in North America.

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