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Nadja by André Breton

Nadja (1928)

by André Breton

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (9)  French (1)  All languages (10)
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Nadja is Andre Breton’s second book, originally published in 1928 and is apparently the first surrealist romance novel. Breton, the founder of surrealism, seems to have based some of the story on a short relationship in Paris with a woman who perhaps later went mad and was institutionalized. Included are photographs of places in Paris that Breton found as surreal or that he visited with Nadja. There are also some drawings she made for him. It’s difficult to tell what’s real and isn’t – which was Breton’s point I assume. My favorite quote: “There is no use being alive if one must work.” That’s pretty real. ( )
1 vote Hagelstein | Jul 19, 2017 |
con illustrazioni
  vecchiopoggi | Jan 4, 2017 |
Somewhere inside this rambling recounting is an encounter between the author and a woman whose spirit is free to the point of being labeled crazy. There are some interesting musings in there, but overall it is just plain confusing. ( )
  sushicat | Jan 14, 2016 |
Having read the blurb, and then done a little internet checking, I was determined NOT to like this book. It seems that this is a merge of truth and fiction and that Breton did not treat the lady involved in this love story well: not to mention his wife, whom he kept updated upon the affair!

My ire dissipated, however, when faced with such beautiful prose. I reasoned that all parties are now safe from the pain of the story and that Breton himself will get no kudos from a good review (notice the supreme egotism there? Even were Breton to still be alive, the prospect of him eagerly awaiting Ken Petersen's opinion of his opus is too absurd for contemplation).

The book is 160 pages long but, when blank pages and a host of, disappointingly dark, photographs are removed, the text is little more than an hour's reading - even at my pedestrian pace. I would suggest that, if you have a full understanding of this tale, then Surrealism will be a piece of cake but, of course, if you think that you understand surrealism, you are, almost certainly, wrong!

I am sorry to all the ladies who, probably correctly, feel that I should be harder upon this book: I simply suggest that you read it and see if the literary style does not mitigate the social faux pas. ( )
  the.ken.petersen | Sep 11, 2014 |
I will write at length on the relation between images and text on a separate website (writingwithimages.com).

For this review I only want to note an amazing obtuseness in this book. I suppose it could make sense to call this a psychoanalytic masterpiece, because of the time and place it was written, as part of the Surrealist project, and as evidence of Breton's reading of Freud. But psychologically, it is a horror show. In the book Breton is married; he starts seeing Nadja, and it never occurs to him -- as a narrator, for for sake of writing, or fiction -- to say anything about how he feels about his wife, or vice versa. At one point he writes:

"I go out at three with my wife and a friend; in the taxi we continue discussing Nadja, as we have been doing during lunch." (p. 91)

This is the first we've been told the narrator has mentioned Nadja to his wife, and Breton doesn't seem to be aware that readers might expect him to put some inflection on this revelation -- either that it was normal in their marriage, or that they had been arguing. A moment later he spots her:

"I run, completely at random, in one of the three directions she may have taken."

Again, no mention of what his wife thinks of this behavior. And at the bottom of the same page:

"This is the second consecutive day I have met her: it is apparent that she is at my mercy."

With no notation about how we're meant to understand that.

When Nadja is committed to an asylum, Breton writes several pages exonerating himself for any responsibility (p. 136), hoping that Nadja doesn't think there's a difference between life outside and inside the asylum, and excoriating the psychiatric community; he then uses that as an excuse for never visiting her!

"My general contempt for psychiatry, its rituals and its works, is reason enough for my not yet having dared investigate what has become of Nadja." (p. 141)

It doesn't seem to occur to him this might seem pusillanimous, or that his intellectual and abstract critique of psychiatry may appear either entirely heartless, or -- worse, from his point of view -- as a construction that can help release him from his love for her. (After all, if madness and sanity interpenetrate, as he insists, why not continue to love Nadja?)

As an exposition of Breton's Surrealism, as an experiment with images, as an instance of psychoanalysis, dream analysis, and mysticism in 1928, it's wonderful. As a novel, anti-novel, or any sort of reflective narrative, it's appalling -- or at the very least, impenetrably obtuse. ( )
  JimElkins | Dec 1, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (33 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
André Bretonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bohrer, Karl HeinzAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fleckhaus, WillyCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schwibs, BerndTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802150268, Paperback)

Nadja, originally published in France in 1928, is the first and perhaps best Surrealist romance ever written, a book which defined that movement's attitude toward everyday life.The principal narrative is an account of the author's relationship with a girl in the city of Paris, the story of an obsessional presence haunting his life. The first-person narrative is supplemented by forty-four photographs which form an integral part of the work--pictures of various 'surreal' people, places, and objects which the author visits or is haunted by in Nadja's presence and which inspire him to meditate on their reality or lack of it.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:40 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Nadja is not so much a person as the way she makes people behave. She has been described as a state of mind, a feeling about reality, a kind of vision, and the reader sometimes wonders whether she exists at all." -- Amazon.com

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