We’ll always have Petrograd

October: the story of the Russian Revolution China Miéville Verso, 2017 An enormous amount of intellectual effort is necessary to unearth what significance, if any, the Russian revolutions of 1917 hold for us today. Before it is possible to do so, the mind must travel backwards from the integrated spectacle of Putin’s Russia to confront, […]

The Full Weight of Surrealism

History of the Surrealist Movement Gérard Durozoi University of Chicago Press, 2002 This massive work, originally published in France in 1997, is actually a history of surrealism as it manifested itself in the visual arts—painting, sculpture, and film. The movement’s core literary expression receives short shrift in the book’s 800-plus pages. The political battles of […]

‘A Machine With a Single Spring’

The recent verdict and sentence announced in the trial of Khmer Rouge prison warden Kaing Guek Eav calls the world’s attention, however fleetingly, to the experience of Cambodia in the Pol Pot years. The Khmer Rouge seized complete control of Cambodia in April 1975 and embarked upon a methodical four-year attempt at a reconstruction of […]

‘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 […]

Department of Needed Translations: Ernst Bloch’s Subject/Object

Ernst Bloch (1885-1977) can be called the outsider of German Marxist thought. While the members of the Frankfurt School and its extended circle have practically become household names in American academia, Bloch’s highly individualistic blend of Expressionism, Marxism, “Left” Aristotleanism, and messianism remains acknowledged by, but not assimilated into, the academic canon of Critical Theory. […]

Lenin, Hegel and Western Surrealism

I first saw reference to the connection between the Surrealists and Lenin’s 1914 Hegel Notebooks in David Roegider’s entry on Surrealism in the first edition of the Encyclopedia of the American Left. Martin Jay notes that it was André Breton who first introduced Henri Lefebrve to Hegel’s Science of Logic in 1924 in his book […]