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The Hopi Notebook

Notes sur les visites dans les réserves indiennes



Author André Breton
People cited Bornholdt, Elisa Claro Breton, E. Charos y Valdes, Chirgnoin, Wolfgang Paalen, Powers, Bill Smith, Ramon Viennes-Maloney, Marta Villamesa, Maria Willshaw


Travel notebook handwritten by André Breton, dated from August 1945 and decorated with drawings, 65 pages.

A large part of the notes from this notebook have been reproduced in the first section of the unpublished texts of volume III of the Pléiade; but the original manuscript is much richer in quotidian details, little additions, short annotations, fragments of drawings…

It is the summer of 1945 when Breton and Elisa go to Nevada, accompanied by two friends; one of the goals of the journey is for the poet to finalize his divorce with Jacqueline, in a town with a reputation for the simplicity of its procedures in that regard. Breton’s former interest in Indian arts would grow during the trip, and he would embark on writing a book about them, the project of which he submitted to Léon-Pierre Quint. Only his notes remain. [Atelier André Breton website, 2005]

Original manuscript notebook, August 1945.
Original manuscript book of notes in a dark blue cover “Ready Note Book” with lined pages consisting of numerous black crayon drawings by Breton, done in 1945.

He relates in it the journey which he undertakes to the Navajo, Zuni, Apache and Hopi reservations in Arizona and in the west of New Mexico during month of August 1945, accompanied by Elisa who he had just married, and by a couple he befriended and encountered in this town. (12 x 7,5 cm, 65 pages)

"Museum of North-East Arizona. Photos of Female Hopi hairstyle:
a) Before the wedding, "in [the style of a] butterfly" on the edge of a mesa [drawing].
b) After, Curring water (running water) [a drawing]”

In the first lines of this very small and very intimate notebook, there appears Breton’s worry of recording all that he sees, in the form of photos and, when these are impossible because of the frequent refusals of the Indians, of writing down / noting through very numerous sketches the objects of common usages or cultural objects (masks, Kachina dolls), the sacred or profane architecture, the dances he witnesses (snake dance, stag dance, goat dance), the traditional costumes, the jewels, the hairstyles, and the landscapes he crossed. Here Breton also describes in the form of short notes the fauna and flora he encounters, the origin of the mythologies and the classical organization of the tribes which he encounters as well as their principal customs – the monogamy and uncompromising pacifism of the Hopis, matriarchy, as opposed to the warlike morals of the Apaches; he also notes the purchases made in the encountered villages (masks, Kachina dolls, jewels, half-precious stones). He describes as well the meals and the cuisine and notes in the form of portraits the liturgical songs accompanying the dances of the tribes:

“Friday: Walpi le pueblo of the clouds [drawing] like a gigantic war boat carved of a stone…”

And to conclude:

“ …mountains almost unearthly, already belonging to the sky, aspiring towards the ethereal space overhead, they don’t smile, they are detached from everything. The Indian looks beyond himself. Stellar continent.” (La Pléiade, Volume III, pages 183-209 and notes pages 1223-1227).

Extraordinary document. [Auction catalogue, 2003]



André Breton (Édition de Marguerite Bonnet avec la collaboration de Philippe Bernier, Marie-Claire Dumas, Étienne-Alain Hubert et José Pierre), « Carnet de voyage chez les Indiens Hopi », Inédits I, ŒŒuvres complètes, tome III, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, Paris, Gallimard, 1999, pages 183 à 209 et notes pages 1223-1227.


Creation date27/08/1945
Physical description

Ms - crayon noir et encre verte
12 x 7,5 cm, 65 pages


Bibliothèque littéraire Jacques Doucet, Paris : BRT 101

Number of pages65 p.
Breton Auction, 2003Lot 2259
Keywords, , , , ,
CategoriesManuscripts, Andre Breton's Manuscripts
Set[AB's Manuscripts] Notebook Indians Hopi
ExhibitionLe Surréalisme d'abord et toujours, galerie Flak
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