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Dada & Surrealism

Dada & Surrealism - Christopher Bigsby This book contains first, a part about Dadaism and then a part for Surrealism: Two of the greatest literary movements in twentieth century.

As my rating in GR tends to higher stars, 3 stars actually mean it was just OK for me. It didn't have enough examples and explanations; rather it was more about the historical and political aspects – good but not enough for a person who even never heard of the word Dadaism before! (I mean myself. I just choose this book for the Surrealism part!)

This book more, in some ways, opened my eyes to –ISMs in 20th century (as they have also other branches or ISMs). I couldn't even imagine that how so many literary ISMs existed and how they were combined in political parties especially Communism.

What does Dada mean?!

In French, it means "Hobby Horse", in Romanian, it means "Yes, Yes" and in African, it is a baby name. It can also have some other meanings in other languages.

When, how, and why did they choose this name?!

At 6:00 pm. in 8th February 1916, in a café in Zurich, during a meeting of a group of artists and poets, the name Dada came when a paper knife stuck into a French-German dictionary happened to point to 'dada'. But this is only a theory; some other people say different stories.

As the word Dada suggests this movement was about nothing, it was anti-art, it was absurd. It was more like a protesting movement, against bourgeois nationalist and colonialist interests. It was anti war, it was anti – rationality: In the world of war and destruction how could an artist be normal?! It was a blast of feelings, an irony: Is this the result of your formal discipline: a slaughtering war?! We pity you! We pity all your precise rules, all your formal systems, all your moralities and your political parties too. So my Bicycle Wheel is an objection:

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Marcel Duchamp, 1913

I like my Large Glass, even if it is broken:

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Marcel Duchamp, 1915-1923

In my opinion this Fountain is true art:

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Marcel Duchamp, 1917

What do you think about my Mona Lisa painting?!

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Marcel Duchamp, 1919

And this poem is written for you! Please, don't find a word in any language, I'll be very saddened.

gadji beri bimba glandridi laula lonni cadori
gadjama gramma berida bimbala glandri galassassa laulitalomini
gadji beri bin blassa glassala laula lonni cadorsu sassala bim
gadjama tuffm i zimzalla binban gligla wowolimai bin beri ban
o katalominai rhinozerossola hopsamen laulitalomini hoooo
gadjama rhinozerossola hopsamen
bluku terullala blaulala loooo

zimzim urullala zimzim urullala zimzim zanzibar zimzalla zam
elifantolim brussala bulomen brussala bulomen tromtata
velo da bang band affalo purzamai affalo purzamai lengado tor
gadjama bimbalo glandridi glassala zingtata pimpalo ögrögöööö
viola laxato viola zimbrabim viola uli paluji malooo

tuffm im zimbrabim negramai bumbalo negramai bumbalo tuffm i zim
gadjama bimbala oo beri gadjama gaga di gadjama affalo pinx
gaga di bumbalo bumbalo gadjamen
gaga di bling blong
gaga blung


~ Hugo Ball

Key figures in this movement included Hugo Ball, Hans Arp, Tristan Tzara, Francis Picabia, George Grosz, Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst, among others. And then it influenced later styles like surrealism.

The leader of Surrealism was André Breton, and it started at a night in 1919, when this sentence came to his mind:

There is a man cut in two by the window!

In the first Surrealist manifesto, which was published in 1924 by Breton, Surrealism was defined as:

Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express — verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner — the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by the thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.


They were tired of this world proposed by Realism; they needed more dreams in their works – so no wonder that they were so impressed by Freud's Interpretation of Dreams. They even tried on writing their poems or stories during sleeping! (But failed!)

I know, this is not a fair review for these sexy and large words, and now I feel my questions about them increased. I need to read more about them and also their works. To start Surrealism first, what is better than reading Nadja, the first Surrealism novel by Andre Breton?! Any other suggestion is so welcomed!--Thanks!