‘Babylon’, Art and Image.

Max Ernst
Max Ernst

This image is one of 19 Max Ernst images that grace René Crevels Bayblon, the book is published by Quartet Encounters (1988) and originally published in French as Babylone (1927). The Quartet Encounters translation is provided by Kay Boyle. I am taking the book away with me on a train today because it is a while since I read it and I remember it as lit.

The most persistent symbol therein being that of the Grandmother applying a clyster to a rose and the child’s wonder at such an exercise.

Each chapter is illustrated by the Ernst prints which are food for the eyes. Other collaborations mentioned on Poethead include : Alice Maher and Eilis Ní Dhuibhne , Leonard Baskin and T. Hughes.

In terms of illustration and writing, the work of RB Kitaj throughout The First Diasporist Manifesto perfectly illustrates how the artist combines a strong visual ability and a need to communicate in words their experience of creating symbol that we fully recognise. Many of these above named collaborations are based in dialogue that attempts to make sense of the appalling political situation in Europe in the period between two World Wars.

Dadaism and Surrealism were attempts by persons of great personal integrity to resist the mass-movement of totalitarianism.

Crevel died by his own hand as he witnessed the spiralling violence that people must react to and resist even today. His words are printed at the back of the book and are pertinent to anyone who refuses to accept that there is no thread of fascism apparent in modern politics,

“The Mind turned outward for a change and reason folded under. A long time ago I wrote something about Reason creating so many mindless divisions, such as Mind, body, spirit/flesh, real/unreal, sane/insane, dream/action that Mind was obliged to declare war on reason. Then I asked myself, Well, if consciousness is the thesis and unconsciousness the antithesis, when does the synthesis come about?” :

“I think it comes about in a fusion that is absolute love. That love is different from the everyday article because it implies total honesty, while conventional morality and customs declarations are alike in that both make people cheat.”

The excellent translation by Kay Boyle and illustrations by Ernst make this a beautiful volume to read.

For info on Dadaism and Surrealism , use google. How and ever many natural surrealists declined the honour of joining the varied groups of clever types including Frida Kahlo but don’t let that put ye off reading about Art and image. Another Surrealist book that I’d recommend is The Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille, though I have not time to go into the imagery at the moment.

Angela Carter has written on that particular one in Expletives Deleted.