The Collection

Home Page > Works > Sleeping fit by Robert Desnos of 7 October 1922

Sleeping fit by Robert Desnos of 7 October 1922

First hypnotic sleeping fits



Authors André Breton, Robert Desnos
People cited Giorgio De Chirico, Germaine Everling, Simone Kahn, ép. Breton puis Collinet, André Breton, Marcel Duchamp, Paul Éluard, Max Ernst, Francis Picabia, Tristan Tzara


Second manuscript of a sleeping fit by Desnos replying to questions from Éluard, Péret, Ernst and Mme Everling transcribed by Simone and André Breton on 7 October 1922.

Is Simone Breton a figure or a prefiguration? ‘Sweet friend / bright wave [onde claire]’ writes Desnos, and someone reading Nadja could hear something like an echo of this in the lovely name Ondine, reaching out across Breton’s works... This isn’t the first time that unknowing fragments of Desnos’ sleeping fits provide elements of the works to come in this way. The surrealists, obsessed with the future in their questions to the dreamer, unsuspectingly receive genuinely premonitory replies that are destined to reappear and resonate many years later. The session documented here features dialogues that alternate between Spanish, English and French, in which the figure of Duchamp assumes an increasingly significant role. From a subtle allusion to his Nude Descending a Staircase  (‘What was Duchamp doing ten years ago? – Naked / he paints’), it moves on to a vision of the artist as a drunk, afflicted with an ‘algebraic illnesss’ [souffrance algébrique]. This dazzling phrase no doubt prevails over this short dreamer’s improvisation: ‘Hélène / La Plaine / Hellène / Est pleine / D'Eros’ (‘Helen / La Plaine / the ancient Greek / Is full / of Eros’)

First hypnotic sleeping fits.
7 October 1922.
- 21 in-4° manuscript pages in black pencil on headed notepaper for Littérature and the ‘Congrès de Paris’ numbered 1 to 21 by Desnos, questioned by Simone and Breton, who summarise Desnos’s replies and transcribe the questions from Éluard, Péret, Madame Everling and Ernst.
The first six pages, torn into four pieces, have been put back together by Breton by gluing them on the back of notepaper for Littérature; the set is inserted into another sheet of notepaper for Littérature, titled by Breton: ‘Saturday 7 October, Desnos, 2nd sleeping fit.’ 
‘Is Duchamp ill? – Yes, but it’s an algebraic illness.
Has he any money? Yes, but perhaps not tomorrow: they say he lives off playing. 
Does Marcel D. like Picabia? – As much as he can like anyone. 

Does he play chess well? – Yes. 
Is he drawn to Paris? – Yes.
What brings him here? – Alcohol. 

Madame Everling asks if she is soon to leave? – ‘Helen / La Plaine – she really needs to remember that / The ancient Greek / Is full / of Eros.
Éluard asks if Chirico is sorry for his former ways. – He’s an idiot.’

Creation date07-oct.-22
Date of publication 1922
Physical descriptionDs et Ms - crayon noir

Bibliothèque littéraire Jacques Doucet, Paris : BRT 161

Method of acquisition and collectionBibliothèque littéraire Jacques Doucet, Paris, don Aube et Oona Elléouët
Breton Auction, 2003Lot 2026
CategoriesManuscripts, Surrealists Manuscripts
Set[Manuscripts] Sommeils
Permanent link