The Collection

Home Page > Works > For Garry Davis


A lecture that Breton was to have given at the 'International Day of Resistance to Dictatorship and War' held on 30 April, 1949. We have here in various fragments, one of which is typed, the lecture that Breton was due to have given at the 'International Day of Resistance to Dictatorship and War' organised on 30 April 1949 by the Rassemblement démocratique révolutionnaire [Revolutionary Democratic Assembly]. Breton’s aim was to demonstrate that, in their role of "guardians of language", the congress of the (Communist) ‘Partisans of Peace’ were in fact subverting it. Preaching by example, Breton, in the typed fragment, includes a long quotation from Bernanos that exemplifies a declaration of freedom in the face of cant. [Atelier André Breton website, 2005]. Signed autograph manuscript and typescript, 29 April 1949. - 5 folio pages in-4°, handwritten in black ink, dated and signed by Breton, of his address to the meeting of 30 April 1949 in which he evokes the change of society - quoting Georges Bernanos, Garry Davis, Paul Nizan - and rejects the orientations of the USSR and the USA: "I have to admit that I really can't tolerate the idea of Picasso giving the floor in public to Ilya Ehrenbourg - 'Officer of the Legion of Honour', the poster proclaims - indubitably a patent false witness, the same one who described my surrealists friends and I as pederasts and pimps; I’m still proud that I corrected him about this with my own hand. [...] "This society must be changed from top to bottom. It won’t change in its blood. It will change the day when justice, to the great horror of its gravediggers, awakens from its slumber and, ever more radiantly, sits down on its tomb." - Six typescript pages of the almost complete text with a handwritten passage and corrections by Breton. (André Breton, Tome III, Inédits II, 1947-1953, Œuvres complètes, volume III (Edition established by Marguerite Bonnet and edited by Étienne-Alain Hubert with contributions from Philippe Bernier, Marie-Claire Dumas and José Pierre), Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, Paris, Gallimard, 1999, pp.1107-1113). [Auction Catalogue, 2003] Speech at the meeting of 30 April 1949, 29 April 1949. Autograph manuscript signed by André Breton, 4 1/2 pages in-4°. Followed by a typescript with handwritten corrections, 6 pages in-4°. Autograph manuscript of the first draft of this seminal political text by André Breton, which remained unpublished during his lifetime. It is accompanied by a typescript, with numerous handwritten corrections and seven handwritten lines added at the end. This typescript is incomplete, corresponding to half a page of the manuscript. Neither Moscow, nor Washington. In this speech, planned for a meeting organised by the Rassemblement démocratique révolutionnaire for the International Day of Resistance to Dictatorship and War, Breton denounces both Stalinism and American imperialism, powerfully evoking the role of the writer. In the end, he was not able to deliver his speech, due to the uproar caused by a talk in favour of nuclear deterrence given by the American physicist, Carl Compton, vigorous protests by anarchists and Trotskyists forcing the organisers to adjourn the session. The writer as watchman – a guardian of words against their devaluation by politicians, a prelude to tyranny. Breton reminds the writer of his duty, that of defender of language. Like George Orwell, the author of Nadja understood that the corruption of language is the harbinger of tyranny; when the words 'peace', 'socialism' or 'democracy' are emptied of their real content, the path is opened up to all kinds of totalitarian purposes. "[The writer] proposes nothing more than to shake up the lethargy of wider intellectual circles, to confront them with their particular responsibility, to enjoin them, in the name of what qualifies them in their own distinct role, to abandon a tolerance - stupefied in some, contemptuous in others, but all too often opportunistic and cowardly - in order to put a stop once and for all to the misdeeds of the worst kind of intolerance, acting in the service of lies and hatred. What seems to me above all to justify the intervention of the writer in this forum is that, whatever his specific orientation, he assumes a responsibility that cannot be relinquished without the total disqualification of his role; that of guardian of language. It is up to him to ensure that the meaning of words is not corrupted, to denounce mercilessly those who today make a profession of distorting language, to speak out forcefully against the monstrous abuse of trust currently constituted by the propaganda of the press in some quarters. He stands up against the misuse of keywords: the latest to have been cynically diverted from its common usage to the point of losing all meaning for the man in the street is the word 'peace'. We have come to a so-called Peace Congress whose participants have not lost an opportunity to show that they only conceive of peace among themselves and, importantly, not with others; who, moreover, at the very moment when they were advocating peace on this side of the world, were most fervently in favour of war on the other side, in Asia. (...) I can hardly bear to look at those of my former friends who hold high ranks in this misery, which appals me, but if our gazes ever meet it will certainly not me who lowers my eyes. We would never have asked them to throw the weight of their work and the credit that their past behaviour has earned them, a triumph after all of the spirit, in support of the domestication of the spirit." Breton was an apostle of independent art. "The weight of an increasingly heavy and constraining hand, accompanied by the threat of imminent universal ruin" obliges the writer to "disengage himself at all costs". To disengage oneself is to refuse to go through the channels, to proclaim loudly and clearly that, whatever happens, one will not surrender to the arguments of the propaganda disseminated by either enemy. We are not without hope that a jolt of common sense will reshape the human community. The speech ends with a diatribe against the United States: "I abominate its monetary stranglehold over Central and South America, I vehemently repudiate that its Coca-Cola stupidity can get the better of old Europe..." And Breton claims: "This society must be changed from top to bottom. It won’t change in its blood. It will change the day when justice, to the great horror of its gravediggers, awakens from its slumber and, ever more radiantly, sits down on its tomb." This speech is much more than a text dependent on circumstance. It testifies to Breton's polemical strength and his undiminished loyalty to Surrealism’s past - "my surrealist friends and I", as he mentions them in his speech. It is also evidence of his integrity and intellectual courage, refusing, four years after the end of the Second World War, both subservience to Moscow and to celebrate the triumph of American capitalism. "These vibrant, inspired pages speak for themselves, without comment". (Étienne-Alain Hubert, in Breton, Œuvres complètes, volume III, pp.1107-1113) [quoted by Gazette Drouot, a study by Pierre Bergé et associés]. Exhibition - Musée de Cahors Henri-Martin, Cahors, La Maison de verre: André Breton, initiateur découvreur, 20 September - 31 December 2014.



- André Breton, (Édition de Marguerite Bonnet avec la collaboration de Philippe Bernier, Marie-Claire Dumas, Étienne-Alain Hubert et José Pierre), Inédits II, ŒŒuvres complètes, tome III, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, Paris, Gallimard, 1999, p. 1107-1113.


Creation date29-avr.-49
Date of publication 1949
Physical descriptionMs et Ts - encre noire
Breton Auction, 2003Lot 2306
Keywords, , ,
CategoriesManuscripts, Andre Breton's Manuscripts
Set[AB's Manuscripts] Miscellaneous Manuscripts
ExhibitionsAndré Breton, The House Of Glass , Allocution au meeting du 30 avril 1949
Permanent link