An elegant consideration of the Surrealist movement as a global phenomenon and why it continues to resonate
“Mr. Polizzotti carefully balances the movement’s aspirations and attainments against its flaws and contradictions, hoping to recuperate Surrealism’s ‘critical and imaginative essence’ for the present. . . . The best concise account of the movement available.”—Michael Saler, Wall Street Journal
Why does Surrealism continue to fascinate us a century after André Breton’s Manifesto of Surrealism? How do we encounter Surrealism today? Mark Polizzotti vibrantly reframes the Surrealist movement in contemporary terms and offers insight into why it continues to inspire makers and consumers of art, literature, and culture.
Polizzotti shows how many forms of popular media can thank Surrealism for their existence, including Monty Python, Theatre of the Absurd, and trends in fashion, film, and literature. While discussing the movement’s iconic figures—including André Breton, Leonora Carrington, Salvador Dalí, René Magritte, Man Ray, and Dorothea Tanning—he also broadens the traditionally French and male-focused narrative, constructing a more diverse and global representation. And he addresses how the Surrealists grappled with ideas that mirror current concerns, including racial and economic injustice, sexual politics, issues of identity, labor unrest, and political activism. Why Surrealism Matters provides a concise, engaging exploration of how, a century later, the “Surrealist revolution” remains as dynamic as ever.
Mark Polizzotti is an award-winning writer and translator. His previous books include Revolution of the Mind: The Life of André Breton and Sympathy for the Traitor: A Translation Manifesto, as well as many translations from the French.
“Why Surrealism Matters makes a convincing and enjoyable case. . . . Mr. Polizzotti carefully balances the movement’s aspirations and attainments against its flaws and contradictions, hoping to recuperate Surrealism’s ‘critical and imaginative essence’ for the present. . . . The best concise account of the movement available.”—Michael Saler, Wall Street Journal
“Mark Polizzotti’s concise introduction to Surrealism is the clearest, richest, most unflinching, and most wide-ranging survey of the movement I have ever read.”—Lucy Sante, author of The Other Paris
“Polizzotti knows that there is no Surrealism but instead a host of surrealisms born anew every generation. He also knows the history of Surrealism, original recipe, as well as anyone, and knows that its mistakes and misfires are worth talking about. This book is worth reading—especially for those who assume they already know the answer.”—Sasha Frere-Jones, author of Earlier
“This book brilliantly conveys the importance of Surrealism far beyond the ordinary histories of the movement. It will take the reader directly into the central excitement of Surrealism, what Polizzotti calls its ‘vibrancy, dynamism, and sheer intellectual thrill.’”—Mary Ann Caws, author of Surrealist Painters and Poets: An Anthology
“Mark Polizzotti makes good on his title and reveals Surrealism as a source of ongoing inspiration and energy. He’s the perfect guide: clear-sighted about Surrealist misogyny and homophobia, but equally clear about its revolutionary potential. A work of commanding integrity.”—Rosanna Warren, author of Max Jacob: A Life in Art and Letters
“In his concise but wide-ranging forensic book, Polizzotti shows convincingly why Surrealism’s disruptive legacy remains fresh today. This is an indispensable read for anyone interested in this revolutionary, anti-colonial movement. Outstanding.”—Partha Mitter, author of The Triumph of Modernism: India’s Artists and the Avant-Garde, 1922–1947
“‘Change life,’ said the Surrealists. With immense elegance and erudition, Polizzotti demonstrates that Surrealism is a living social movement forged through the collective refusal of authoritarianism, oppression, and exploitation.”—Abigail Susik, author of Surrealist Sabotage and the War on Work
“The crowning achievement of Polizzotti’s lifelong engagement with Surrealism, this much-needed contemporary handbook focuses on the core insights of Surrealist thought and its applications in life and art, which remain of ‘ongoing pertinence.’”—Pierre Joris, author of A Nomad Poetics: Essays
“Polizzotti makes the case for Surrealism as ‘a radical new means of seeing the world,’ a revolution of the mind, whose assault on capitalism, colonialism, and Christofascism is more relevant than ever.”—Mark Dery, author of Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey
Sign up to the Yale newsletter for book news, offers, free extracts and more
Strictly Necessary Cookies
Strictly Necessary Cookie should be enabled at all times so that we can save your preferences for cookie settings.
If you disable this cookie, we will not be able to save your preferences. This means that every time you visit this website you will need to enable or disable cookies again.