Anthology of Black Humour


Anthology of Black Humour Paperback – 1 Feb 2009
by Andre Breton (Author)

In his provocative anthology of the writers he most admires, Breton discusses the acerbic aphorisms of Swift, Lichtenberg and Duchamp, the theatrical slapstick of Christian Dietrich Grabbe, the wry missives of Rimbaud, the manic paranoia of Dali, the ferocious iconoclasm of Alfred Jarry and the offhand hilarity of Apollinaire.

For each of the authors included, Breton provides an enlightening preface, situating both the writer and the work in the context of black humour – a partly macabre, partly ironic, and often absurd turn of spirit that Breton defined as ‘a superior revolt of the mind’.

This edition includes Breton s foreword to the 1966 French edition, and Breton’s essay, Lightning Rod, first published with the 1939 edition. This book comes with an introduction from translator Mark Polizzotti written in 1996.

Product details
Paperback: 415 pages
Publisher: Telegram Books (1 Feb. 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1846590744
ISBN-13: 978-1846590740
Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 2.3 x 19.9 cm
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 460,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

‘It is not, I should warn you, a very easy book to get into. But once you accept its idiosyncrasies you will find yourself in an unsettling world, one that is very familiar and yet capable of leaping out at you in the most unexpected way. It’s a testament to originality, to defiance of convention, a revolt against sentimentality, and if you’ve ever used the term “black humour” yourself, or expressed a liking for it, then you really ought to have this on your bookshelf.’

–Nicholas Lezard , the Guardian Paperback of the Week

About the Author
Andre Breton (1896-1966), the founder and principal theorist of the Surrealist movement, is one of the major literary figures of the twentieth century. His best-known works in English translation include Nadja, Mad Love, The Manifestoes of Surrealism, The Magnetic Fields (with Philippe Soupault) and Earthlight.

About the translator: Mark Polizzotti is the author of Revolution of the Mind: The Life of André Breton.

Anthology of Black Humour

By Willing Eugénie on 10 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

Breton’s Anthology is a wonderful introduction to a host of humorous writers like Swift, but it’s also an introduction to many more that are not generally seen as “humorists” at all like Kafka. The reason for their inclusion in an Anthology of humour is because of the requirement of the present tome, i.e. that it be “black” humour. Black humour for Breton is a “superior revolt of the mind.”, that is – where the mind revolts against, and liberates itself, from the repressive Superego. Breton’s definition, you see, owes a lot to freud, but he adds to it a social, or “engaged”, element – so that black humour is not just a parlor game, or amusement, for those that would allow the id to unbutton its repressed collar for a moment, only to re-button it again before one walks respectfully out into the street. Rather black humor has a very serious social dimension that engages forehead to forehead with the brut of oppression. It does so, as Breton shows through his introductions to each writer, by deploying irony. Swift speaks in the voice of the oppressive land-lord when he makes his “Modest Proposal”. It is ironic. It is “black”, because it is macabre, grotesque, and, most importantly of all, it is cruel. This cruelty, that is evident in a lot of the passages Breton chose for his Anthology, is important for his idea of “black” (dark) humour, because it exposes the cruelty at work in ordering and maintaining ordered society. When a man is being executed on a cold monday morning for stealing a teapot, he is asked how he feels about his predicament. “What a way to start the week!”, is his “superior revolt of the mind”.

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