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Interview with André Breton by Madeleine Chapsal, published in L'Express on 9 August 1962.

As was often the case since the early 1950s, this interview with Breton by Madeleine Chapsal, published in L'Express on 9 August 1962, was the occasion for some reflections on past history. The interview approaches surrealism, and in particular the critical moment of the Second Manifesto, by asking about the ‘vocation’ of a young man whose parents saw as destined for the Ecole polytechnique.

Breton uses the occasion to acknowledge the ‘excesses’ prompted by the passionate atmosphere of that era. He had long ago already made peace with several of those with whom he had crossed swords, such as Bataille or Soupault. [Atelier André Breton website, 2005]

Signed handwritten manuscript, 1962.
- 4 in-4° numbered pages, signed manuscript in ink by Breton with a few deletions and corrections of 19 replies to a set of autobiographically-related questions in which Breton expounds on the prevailing influence upon him of Valery, Apollinaire, Rimbaud and Lautréamont, on his decisive encounters with Vaché, Aragon and Soupault, ‘automatic’ writing and the publication of Les Champs magnétiques and the interest prompted by the republication of surrealist texts. Breton also mentions the recent death of Georges Bataille.

‘I chose medicine without clearly understanding if the disciplines it implies could match the orientations of my own being. By a process of elimination, but only by this process, it seemed to me that this was what I could still best manage. I also thought that the medical profession was the one that was most tolerant of the exercise alongside it of other mental activities. [...]

In 1916 I had met Jacques Vaché who exerted a huge influence over me. Through his attitudes as much as his words he had revealed to me the least explored regions of humour. [...]

If access to Rimbaud was just as difficult then, it was also because his biographers – starting with his sinister brother-in-law Berrichon – had liberally misrepresented him, never mind that Remy de Gourmont had seen fit to denounce his ‘girlish demeanour’. He stands judged for that view. [...]

These were the conditions when, in Nantes in 1916, my role as an intern in the neurological centre gave me ample time off and I devoted myself to solitary walks in the outlying quarters; I absorbed myself in the work of Rimbaud, which I took with me everywhere and was prone to the utmost degree to the fascination of the enigma that went with it. [...]

Georges Bataille, whose recent death I feel keenly... Of course we were as different as can be on certain levels, but on that of all human outcomes, I valued him enormously. [...]

If life has imposed some defeats on me, as it has to everyone, for me what really matters is that I have not compromised on the three causes I had embraced from the start, those of poetry, love and liberty. [...]’
A verbatim version by André Breton of his interview with Madeleine Chapsal for l'Express of 9 August 1962. [Auction catalogue, 2003]


Translated by Krzysztof Fijalkowski


André Breton (Édition publiée sous la direction d'Étienne-Alain Hubert avec la collaboration de Philippe Bernier et Marie-Claire Dumas), « [Entretien avec Madeleine Chapsal] », in Pespective cavalière, Œuvres complètes, tome IV, Écrits sur l'art et autres textes, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, Paris, Gallimard, 2008, pages 1010 à 1018, notes p. 1431-1432.


Creation date1962
Bibliographical material

4 in-4° pages

Date of publication 09/08/1962
Physical descriptionMs - encre noire

Bibliothèque littéraire Jacques Doucet, Paris : BRT 120

Number of pages4
Breton Auction, 2003Lot 2505
Keywords, ,
CategoriesManuscripts, Andre Breton's Manuscripts
Set[AB's Manuscripts] Manuscripts 1958-1966
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