This book is a survey of Surrealism in France that places a particular emphasis on defacto group-leader Andre Breton and his immediate circle (Paul Eluard, Louis Aragon, etc) - in other words, the official members of the Surrealist group. Gershman writes in a dense poetic prose that may sometimes confound the reader although it makes his book a far less dry piece of academic writing than most treatments on Breton’s group.
The author looks to the Surrealists for their inspirations, leading him to discuss love, or mad love (amour fou), more than the Freudian theory that unquestionably had a role in the Surrealist emergence out of Dada. Gershman is priviledging the poetic aspect of Surrealism over even a basic discussion of their theoretical inspirations. Love, of course, has to be the most widespread inspiration for poetry in history, and its difficult, as a reader, to accept that a movement such as the Surrealists, new in the twentieth century, were driven only by love and dreams. So were the New Kids on the Block.
Gersham’s book is strong but it’s directed by concerns with the poetic rather than the aesthetic. it’s longest chapter is the chapter on surrealist poetry and literature, which is clearly Gershman’s chief interest with the movement while painting, the best known component of the Surrealist work, is much shorter and often focuses on the artist’s relationship to the writings of Surrealist poets.
Probably the best chapter of the book is the second last, Surrealism and Politics, which describes in detail Surrealism’s attempt to balance its own artistic worldview and its notions of revolution through realizing desire, with that of Moscow directed Communist orthodoxy.