Andrea Breton’s Nadja
“Who am I?” a man wrote, to me someone told of through an assignment through you. Andrea Breton was a man born in the late 1800’s and is now considered one of the most influential surrealist writers of the 20th century. “Who am I?” he wrote in the beginning of his novel Nadja as if to infer the reader to know and to understand and to answer, something which I did not know and which I cannot answer even now.
His book is in and of itself a work of art, and much like the ignorant “aesthetic” points of view a contemporary person would have in the case of a surrealist painting (symbols of things back then to which the viewer’s mind conceives some relation and to which a contemporary person’s mind cannot conceive truly unless taught to or learned), so too does the enigmatic (at least to me) referencing of people, places and things bewilder me, along with the motif of the stylistic writings of the author. This directly reflects the intent of a surrealist work, not necessarily considering a viewer understand but rather intending a viewer perceive the non sequitur shapes and things and themes of the painting, of the work. Breton does this, creating shapes in the mind, shapes of connections of neurons and memories and things of that sort, through the use of clever, subliminal, subconscious content and literary writing structure. I think my first impression of the book was one of horror. A romance novel, I thought, sounds like something I could never read. Then I began to read and not to my surprise the mechanics of the book were directly translated in a near incoherent fashion (the horror) but also as I read and continued to read, and continued to try to understand, it occurred to me, roughly a quarter of the way through the book, that this was the intent of the novel, to paint a picture with and in the mind through the use of ramblings, imagery and photography; a Surrealist work of literacy, of art, a virtual painting with words. I feel that the imagery of the work is as, if not more important than the photographs which are openly conjoined. Breton did this, I would consider, to evoke a response in the reader in that the “real” image of something (a painting, a portrait, a drawing), would be a “real” piece of his encounter, his art work and thus would lend a realistic reference for the mind to take hold of while working to comprehend even a nearby sentence. This “romance” is more to me like a tool made to entice, nay assault the mind with nearly incomprehensible sentence structure with a nearly incomprehensible plot coalesced through the spontaneity of the human mind and expressed through automatism. Analytically and crucially each paragraph and photo means nothing without the next or prior and in a sense echoes the essentiality of each corner, each image, each color, a composition of a surrealist painter must have to even be considered a composition, yet inexplicably the composition ceases to contain any structure at all. In this sense, as I read and worked to understand the novel, by completion I found a relation, the relation between Andrea’s haunting “who am I” and his final epiphany, the discovery that beauty is, like the novel, an initial perception and later an understood one. I intend to speak of the relationship Andrea Breton had with the woman so aptly named “Nadja”, a brief encounter which chimed him to write this novel, and yet I feel to understand the novel as a whole begs the question of how essential the plot really is? Underlying is Breton’s initial discovery of a woman which Andrea finds could never exist in that her intrinsic self and