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Mourning for Mourning cover image Mourning for Mourning

Robert Desnos

The Printed Head
Volume II, Number 6

Translated by Terry Hale.
ISBN 0 947757 52 X
64pp 13.5 x 21cm
out of print

Desnos’ own selection of his early stories from Surrealist reviews: fairy-tales from The Period of Sleeping-Fits.

“Desnos more than any of us got closest to the Surrealist truth,” wrote André Breton in the first Manifesto of Surrealism (1924): “He speaks Surrealist at will.” Mourning for Mourning was published the same year, it was Desnos’s first book. This was during the early experimental period of Surrealism - the period of Sleeping-fits, of the investigation of the subconscious through dream and trance states and through automatic writing. Robert Desnos proved to be the most gifted practitioner. So gifted, indeed, that the trance sessions had to be discontinued after various disturbing incidents: on one occasion he tried to stab Paul Eluard, on another he was discovered attempting to persuade other members of the group to hang themselves. In October 1922, Littérature had published some of Desnos’ dreams, and in December the same year he received telepathic communications from Rrose Sélavy (Marcel Duchamp) in New York. The November issue, meanwhile, had contained a lengthy account of one of the trance sessions, containing passages such as this:

Q. - What do you know about Péret?

A. - He will die in a railway-carriage full of people.

Q. - Does that mean he will be assassinated?

A. - Yes.

Q. - By whom?

A. - (He draws a train with a man falling out of a carriage window.) By an animal.

Q. - By what animal?

A. - A blue ribbon, my sweet vagabond.

Many of his paintings of this period depict the circumstances surrounding the future deaths of his friends -- Desnos himself died in 1945 of typhus, shortly after his liberation from the Nazi concentration camp of Buchenwald.

This is the first English translation of Deuil pour Deuil.



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