‘The Greatest Power of Shock’

Franklin Rosemont’s 1978 collection of writings by André Breton, What is Surrealism? remains a treasure trove of rare and valuable texts. I have just come across a footnote by Rosemont to “On Proletarian Literature,” an interesting 1933 speech by Breton, which draws attention to the fact that the Surrealists were the first to publish in French Lenin’s 1914 notes on Hegel. Rosemont cites André Thirion, while Anna Balakian (see previous post) spells the name Thinion. Rosemont has the correct spelling. I assume that in in this instance Balakian was simply not well-served by her proofreaders.

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Note by Franklin Rosemont

The first excerpts from Lenin’s Philosophical Notebooks published in French translation appeared in Le Surréalisme ASDLR (No. 6, 1933), prefaced by André Thirion, who emphasized that “it has been left to the surrealists (who, with the exception of a few professional philosophers, are alone here in claiming derivation from Hegelian thought and in constantly referring their own activity to it) to publish, for the first time in France, fragments of the Hegel-Lenin dialogue. For us it is obviously not a question of making an ostentatious display of erudition, or the mere arousal of amused curiosity. The effect produced on each of us by reading these texts has led us to recognize in them the greatest power of shock on all who aspire to disentangle the laws of the evolution of all material and intellectual objects.”

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