By Breton, André; Matthews, J. H.; Breton, André
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Additional resources for André Breton : sketch for an early portrait
If, in the use of words, Francis Picabia had exercised the right to freedom from censorship by reason as effectively as the Anthologie de l'Humour noir assures us that he did, then why did Breton not grant Picabian poetry special recognition at a moment when he surely could have found considerable advantage in taking encouragement from Picabia's poems? For our understanding of the kind of man Breton was between his twentieth birthday and his thirtieth, his silences are no less informative than the things he saw fit to commit to writing.
Although, like Soupault, living in the situation of someone who "has brought to light the precious lode," Breton still took nearly five years to start mining operations on a grand scale. In the circumstances, how can we wonder that he took considerably longer to acknowledge the historical significance of Francis Picabia's writings? We entertain an entirely false image of Breton as a young man if we imagine him confidently moving away from the exhausted Symbolist tradition in French poetry and advancing purposefully toward a point, clearly visible on the intellectual horizon, at which he anticipated being able to lay the founda tion of another poetic tradition for which, thanks to Guillaume Apollinaire, a name already existed.
This is not to say, however, that when taking on another function, in which criticism became an act of love, Breton succeeded in communicating everything he might have wished to write about Picabia, or even all that would have been necessary to expand to the fullest extent his readers' awareness of the relationship existing between Picabia's ideas or practice and, on the other side, an evolving concept to which the new designation "surrealist" was to be thought appropriate. Still, even where we come closest to disappointment, conscious that essential data have not been brought forward for consideration, we receive none the less useful indications of the mental state and consequent outlook of young Breton.