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In this essay, along with posthumous praise for the figure, André Breton, Octavio Paz establishes a new approach to surrealism, automatic writing and the concept of revelation: “The critics are saying that surrealism is no longer the avant-garde. Apart from my antipathy for that military term, I don’t think novelty—being exactly where things are happening—is the key characteristic of surrealism. Not even Dada had that frenetic cult of the brand-new postulated by the futurists, for example. Neither Dada nor surrealism had any great love of machines. Surrealism defiled them: unproductive machines, élevages de poussière [dust breeders], half-melted watches.” One element of particular interest in this text by Paz is his description of the somewhat diffuse power of judgment that Breton exercised over his fellow surrealists. While Breton had the capacity to cause sleepless nights, Paz specifies that this was not a matter of fear or subjection before an intellectual leader.


These views of Octavio Paz (1914-1998) regarding surrealism represent the Mexican writer’s late approach; though, in some way, he had established continuity between his work and this avant-garde French movement. Surrealism entailed ways of expanding what was avant-garde without any orthodox adherence to models and trends. Another example of Paz’s rapport with the avant-garde can be found in his studies of the work of Marcel Duchamp, whether through his 1968 book/suitcase or his critical study of the artist in 1973. 

The document at hand is a text that was translated into French by Roger Munier to be published as an homage to Breton in La Nouvelle Revue Française, No. 172 (April 1967). Later, it was included in Paz’s book Corriente alterna [Alternating Current] (Mexico City: Siglo XXI, 1967).

Francisco Reyes Palma
CURARE, Espacio crítico para las artes, Mexico City, Mexico
© 1994 by Marie José Paz. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.
Biblioteca Central de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México