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Surreal Lives: The Surrealists, 1917 1945

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  98 ratings  ·  13 reviews
Playful, amusing, frivolous, and bizarre. As Ruth Brandon points out in the preface to her marvelous Surreal Lives, surrealism has passed into everyday life as a byword for the strange. However, as this wonderfully exhaustive book point outs, the intellectual and political drive behind the movement was in fact highly revolutionary. What Brandon proceeds to unfold is a kale ...more
Published (first published September 1st 1999)
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Joshua Buhs
An exercise in the higher gossip. (Criminally lacking in images.)

Not that it’s necessarily bad—indeed, Brandon’s technical skills are impressive—but limited.

The book looks at the lives of the surrealist authors, painters and film-makers between the beginning of the War to End All Wars and the end of the next world conflict. There is Marcel Duchamp, Tristan Tzara, Man Ray, Louis Aragon, Paul Eluard, Francis Picabia, Luis Buñuel, and Salvador Dalí, but the focus of the story, the one about whom th
Ryan Kerr
If you are at all interested in the dadaists or surrealists, this is a must. Everyone you ever heard of in either movements are included, even some you don't know. Slow, but enriching.
Matthew Conroy
A good historical book, describing the lives of a number of prominent Dadaists and Surrealists. Reading about their personal lives and foibles really filled them out in my mind, as well as clarifying for me the history of the art. I was not very aware, if at all, of the sad and stupid impact Stalinism had on surrealism and the surrealists.

Very heavily footnoted, the book makes it easy to dig further into this history. I've already got Andre Breton and Philippe Soupault's "Les Champs Magnetiques"
Aaron C. Thomas
This is lovely. The writing can be confusing at times - numerous times I thought "who is HE in this sentence"? - but the narrative is a fascinating one. Brandon follows the trajectory of SURREALISM as a kind of entity. And so this is the story of Surrealism as it played out in the lives of its adherents. I love the book, too, for its perspective on Breton. It is a humane, critical, and yet loving portrayal of the man and the monster. Much appreciated.
Jarad Coats
So far it's been fantastic. It's an in-depth look at all of the major players of the movement. The writer is maybe a little too in love with certain figures, leaving you feeling the stories are a bit romanticized, or maybe just that the urban legends are mixing with the reality a bit too much, but this is surrealism after all. It works as a great base of learning, but I think, would also be a good composite read for those familiar with the material.
May 04, 2007 sophie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like france in the interwar period
I learned more about the Surrealists (and really the first 200 pages is about how they were the dadaists first) than I ever thought possible. Brandon seems hell bent on including every scrap of letter that these men ever wrote to each other. Interesting, especially if you've studied modern France at all, though a bit ponderous/tedious at times. Still, I will push onward.
A book that felt like it could have easily been half the length and contained the same amount of information. Since Surrealism began as Dada the first 1/3 of the book is dedicated to that. Pages and pages about French poetry...dada poetry none-the-less. Some interesting stories, but overall it was more chaff than wheat.
A good overview of surrealism's beginning, its schisms, and development in Paris, Zurich and New York. No theory here, all historical, personal, with a bit of gossip thrown in.
Fluffy Singler
This is a good basic book for understanding the major players in the Surrealist movement. It is also a lively read, as any book on Surrealism should be!
Excellent account of the personalities and struggles behind the Surrealist movement.
a good gossipy read, with some solid insights and good historical context.
Shallow, charmless recycling of familiar material.
Good bibliography.
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