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Crossed Wires: On the Prague-Paris Surrealist Telephone

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • Derek Sayer
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2012
<mark>Journal</mark>Common Knowledge
Issue number2
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)193-207
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


An exercise in humour noir, this essay explores relations between the Paris and Prague surrealist groups from André Breton and Paul Éluard's visit to “the magic capital of old Europe” in 1935 to the aborted “Prague Spring” of 1968. It focuses on the famous “starry castle” of Breton's Mad Love — which Czechs know better as Letohrádek Hvězda at Bílá hora, the White Mountain — as a signifier whose wanderings, over the period, encapsulate the mutual myths and misunderstandings that were constitutive of this most poignant of surrealist love affairs. The essay ends by suggesting that what makes the Czech capital a fitting object of the surrealist imagination (and a rich source of surreal art and literature in its own right) is less the “historic charms” that so seduced Breton in 1935 than the “geographical, historical, and economic considerations” of the city's modernity that he blithely put to one side.