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André Jolivet, Antonin Artaud and Alejo Carpentier: Redefining the surreal

Rae, Caroline ORCID: 2018. André Jolivet, Antonin Artaud and Alejo Carpentier: Redefining the surreal. Presented at: Surrealism and Music in France 1924-1952: Interdisciplinary and International Contexts, Senate House, London, UK, 8 June 2018.

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Although André Jolivet was never formally associated with the literary Surrealists, indeed some of his closest extra-musical contacts during his formative years had been with the visual arts and Cubism, he became closely acquainted with others who were, or had been, part of Breton’s circle during the interwar years, notably the writers Antonin Artaud and Alejo Carpentier. Significantly, both Artaud and Carpentier were among the group who eventually distanced themselves from Breton, disagreements about the importance of music as well as their respective ideas about primitive levels of experience, magic and ritual practices playing a part in their gradual move to more independent positions. While Surrealism may be argued to have developed partly in response to the futility and carnage of World War I, the Spanish-speaking literary community in Paris, to which Carpentier and others associated with the Surrealist movement belonged, was imbued with a sense that Western civilisation was in decline, an idea propagated through translations of Spengler’s The Decline of the West in Ortega y Gasset’s Revista de Occidente. Artaud too was profoundly affected by his view of the Western tradition as psychologically lifeless. With notions of decay and collapse informing Surrealist outputs in relation to the incongruous and incompatible through recourse to the mysterious powers of the subconscious mind, Carpentier and Artaud began to contemplate different approaches that drew on ancient beliefs and primitive ritual associated with the Latin American world; the Cuban Nañigo for Carpentier, the Mexican Tarahumara for Artaud. While Carpentier’s motivation was the promotion of a distinctive Latin American national identity that paradoxically aimed to eschew European influences, Artaud sought an alternative to Western ‘decadence’. Both were informed by their visits to the Paris Colonial Exposition of 1931, which Jolivet also attended. Jolivet met Artaud and Carpentier through his mentor Varèse, and his so-called ‘magic’ works of the 1930s demonstrate many traits that parallel the writers’ literary ideas. Exploring Jolivet’s contact with Artaud and Carpentier, this paper considers cross-fertilisations of creative thinking while suggesting that Jolivet’s music represented a powerful influence on Carpentier whose concept of ‘the marvellous real’ became one of the keystones of Magic Realism, a literary movement born out of Surrealism.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Music
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > ML Literature of music
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2022 08:39

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