Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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December 02, 2007
psychogeographical in dress

Franklin Rosemont's new (© 2008) Jacques Vaché and the Roots of Surrealism is a work of sufficient scope and thoroughness that it is hard to envision how it could be surpassed, at least for English readers.

Rosemont is of course the editor of the great collection of André Breton writings, What Is Surrealism?, the one with the introduction long and detailed enough to be a book of its own.

So, we have gone from knowing little more than that Breton spoke highly of Vaché, that "it is Jacques Vaché to whom I owe the most," to having now available a comprehensive volume that approaches the guy from most of the conceivable angles, even if briefly.

Apart from biographical info, we now have his war letters, and copies of many little sketches by him. Rosemont touches upon Vaché's childhood in turn-of-the-century Vietnam; pataphysics; Peter Abelard; Charles Mingus; the Ohio Hegelians

                                                                        [n.b.: who were, to TiR's knowledge, not a precursor group to the Ohio Players
                                                                                                at least not directly];

      Tex Avery; surrealist women; the creation of whiteness; The Book of Tea; surveys the books in Vaché's library; and quotes Trotsky on his encounter with Arthur Cravan (apparently he is the boxer mentioned here).

Among the thought-provoking asides: Rosemont notes the purported roots in Fichte's Subjective Realism of one of Breton's "most thoroughly Vachéan texts," the "Introduction to the Discourse on the Paucity of Reality."

Some months ago, TiR spared the world an inevitably tiresome (for all of us) post that would have wondered semi-publicly about the relationship, if any, between Breton's essay, Lacan, and notions of narcissism, identity slippage, modernity, media spectacle, paranoia and the like. Lacan wrote:

As I myself have shown, human knowledge is more independent than animal knowledge from the force field of desire because of the social dialectic that structures human knowledge as paranoiac; but what limits it is the "scant reality" surrealistic unsatisfaction denounces therein.
The above is from "The Mirror Stage as Formative of the I Function, as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience. "

Breton's essay, meanwhile, has numerous striking references to mirrors
-- an essay which -- who knows? -- could be equipment for helping one try to make sense of how people think and behave in a society where everybody is encouraged to want to look into mirrors all the time
or to feel like they're being looked at, through the "one-way" kind, by government or corporate snoops

O eternal theater, you require us in order not only to play another's role but also to prompt it, to mask ourselves in his likeness so that the looking glass before which we pose will reflect a strange image.

. . .

What do I care what is said about me, when I do not know who speaks, to whom I speak, or for whom we speak?

. . .

Latin civilization has passed its zenith. . . . It seems just now to be the last rampart of bad faith, senility and cowardice. Compromises, ruses, promises of tranquility, empty mirrors, egotism, military dictatorships . . . all that is left is to kick over the ladder.

Further intriguing was how Breton's essay claims to have been written in response to the new emergence of radio technology, to "talk about wireless telegraphy, wireless telephony, wireless imagination" and the "new orientations of the mind" that these brought. The essay was written around late 1924 to early 1925. TiR's temporary fascination with the history of the arrival of radio to mid-20's Paris was the next step down the spiral.

The world thankfully has been spared that pedantic and noodly post, but TiR will retain the above links for its own dumb tracking and future retrieval purposes.

For the moment, it will be enough to mention Rosemont's claim that, after first meeting Vaché, Breton wrote:
I want to read Ficthe.
Who among us doesn't wake up every day and say that to themselves?

The title of this post refers to a comment by Debord about Vaché's personal style, from June 1954.

The comment could not have been derived from any direct observation by Debord of Vaché. Approximately 12 years before Debord was born, Vaché killed himself.

Nevertheless, Debord wrote:
Jacques Vaché is psychogeographical in dress.

Again, who among us does not aspire to dress likewise?

Coming up next: Vaché and boredom.