I just got this book so of course I haven’t read it yet—but I’ve read around in it and it’s going to be a stylish and engrossing read.
It’s subtitled A Surrealist Love Triangle, and while it traces the fascination almost all of the great French Surrealists of the 1920-30s (Blaise Cendrars, Paul Eluard, Benjamin Peret, Louis Aragon, Robert Desnos et al) felt for travel and exploration to remote and exotic places, as little traveled as possible by normal European tourists, it focuses on the perplexing love triangle involving Gala Eluard (later to be, more famously, Gala Dali), poet and art collector Paul Eluard, and artist Max Ernst.
Much of their hard travel to far-flung places (Saigon, Angor Wat, etc.) was made by steamship. Travel was a drug and if you were busy shifting erotic partners (as Eluard, Ernst and Gala Eluard were, it was a thrilling, anonymous, essential drug.
The Surrealist “pope,” Andre Breton—who didn’t actually travel much himself—nevertheless saw travel as essential to surrealist aesthetic and philosophical development: “Drop everything…take to the road: that’s what I preached in those days. We hadn’t forgotten Rimbaud….”
The author of this charming, very original work is, refreshingly, not an art critic or historian, but rather a documentary film maker. Which may explain the vividness with which the trajectories of the principles (Elouard, Mrs. Elouard and Max E.) are traced and retraced and—it seems to me—made exceedingly real.