“Pour prendre part au tournoi noir de l’humour, il faut en effect avoir échappé à de nombreux éliminatoires. L’humour noir est borné par trop de choses, telles que la bêtise, l’ironie sceptique, la plaisanterie sans gravité... (l’énumeration serait longue) mais il est par excellence l’ennemi mortel de la sentimentalité à l’air perpétuellement aux abois – la sentimentalité toujours sur fond bleu – et d’une certaine fantaisie à court terme, qui se donne trop souvent pour la poésie, persiste bien vainement à vouloir soumettre l’espirit à ses artifices caducs, et n’en a sans doute plus pour longtemps à dresser sur le soleil…”
– André Breton, Anthologie de l’humour noir, p. 21–22
[To engage in black humour, it is necessary to have made it past a number of barriers. Black humour is bounded by too many things, such as idiocy, skeptical irony, trivial banter… (the list goes on). But it is par excellence the mortal enemy of that sentimentality which seems to be perpetually at bay – the sentimentalist always against a blue backdrop. A certain short-term fantasy, that is too often mistaken for poetry, persists so vainly in wanting to subject the soul to outmoded pretensions, and no doubt does not have long left to stand in the sun…]
A FASCINATING SURREALIST WORK, INSCRIBED BY BRETON TO A FELLOW WRITER AND MEMBER OF THE SURREALIST'S CIRCLE.
Widely considered to be the sole philosopher of Surrealism, André Breton was among the vanguards of the Surrealist movement in the first half of the twentieth century. As much as he is celebrated for his creative works, Breton is equally revered as a greater thinker. And his Anthologie de l’humour noir, in addition to coining the term “black humour”, encapsulates “the originality of his concept of the purpose of life” (Balakin, p. 37).
Progressing chronologically through a pantheon including Jonathan Swift, Lewis Carroll, Franz Kafka, Marcel Duchamp, and Jean-Pierre Duprey, Breton collates historical exempla for his Anthologie to demonstrate many key factors of Surrealist thought, primarily intelligence’s independence from reason and rationality. Referencing the long quotation cited at the top of the page, J.H Matthews notes how, “[a]bove all, this statement makes us aware of one of the criteria by which Breton judges and approves black humour. For, even though it may seem so upon first acquaintance, black humour is not irresponsible. In selecting material for his anthology, Breton could claim to have borne in mind the axiom he quotes with approbation from Pierre Piobb’s Les mystères des dieux: ‘Il nest rien qu’un humour intelligent ne puisse résoudre en éclats de rire.’” (Matthews, p. 268 ). That is, “There is nothing that humour cannot reduce to bursts of laughter.”
With cover art by Pierre Faucheux, this 1950 edition presents a unique stage of the Anthologie de l’humour noir’s development and rise to prominence—positioned between the initial run in 1940 which faced sever censorship from the Vichy government and the now commonplace “definitive” 1966 revision. This 1950 edition – the second edition – was also significantly expanded from the 1940 editions, with the addition of five new entries. Complete with 23 photographic portraits.
This copy is inscribed and signed by Breton to Monique Fong (a.k.a. Monique Fong Wust), an author and translator who—having been introduced to Breton at a party hosted by Claude Lévi-Strauss—would break with the Paris Surrealists by March 1951, when she moved to Washington, D.C. to serve as an interpreter during the implementation of the Marshall Plan. It is in the U.S. that Fong Wust would meet lifelong companion Marcel Duchamp, and the present inscription was likely obtained before her departure. It bears the message: “A Monique Fong aves les affectueux compliments d’André Breton” [“To Monique Fong with the affectionate compliments of André Breton”].
Anna Balakin, “André Breton as Philosopher’, Yale French Studies 31 (1964), 37–44
J.H. Matthews, “Intelligence at the Service of Surrealism: Breton’s Anthologie de l’humour noir”, Books Abroad 41.3 (1967), 267–73
BRETON, ANDRÉ. Anthologie de l’humour noir. Paris: Sagittaire, 1950. First edition. Octavo, pp. 356 + 23 plates of selected authors anthologised within, original wrappers designed by Pierre Faucheu; glassine; housed in a custom presentation box. Reinforcement to upper hinge, splits to text block on spine (text block a little loose) with some chipping at wrapper edges.
AN IMPORTANT SURREALIST TEXT, RARE INSCRIBED.
Price: $1,750 .