title:Second Manifesto of Surrealism
by Andre Breton
ISBN 0-472-06182-8

In spite of the various efforts peculiar to each of those who
used to claim kinship with Surrealism, or who still do, one
must ultimately admit that, more than anything else, Sur-
realism attempted to provoke, from the intellectual and
moral point of view, an attack of conscience, of the most
general and serious kind, and that the extent to which
this was or was not accomplished alone can determine its
historical success or failure.
From the intellectual point of view, it was then, and
still is today, a question of testing by any and all means,
and of demonstrating at any price, the meretricious nature
of the old antinomies hypocritically intended to prevent
any unusual ferment on the part of man, were it only by
giving him a vague idea of the means at his disposal, by
challenging him to escape to some meaningful degree from
the universal fetters. The bugaboo of death, the simplistic
theatrical portrayl of the beyond, the shipwreck of the
most beautiful reason in sleep, the overwhelming curtain
of the future, the tower of Babel, the mirrors of incon-
stancy, the impassable silver wall bespattered with brains-
these all too gripping images of the human catastrophe are,
perhaps, no more than there exists a certain point of the mind at
which life and death, the real and the imagined, past and
future, the communicable and the incommunicable, high
and low, cease to be perceived as contradictions. Now,
search as one may one will never find any other motivat-
ing force in the activities of the Surrealists than the hope
of finding and fixing this point. From this it becomes ob-
vious how absurd it would be to define Surrealism solely
as constructive or destructive: the point to which we are
referring is a fortiori that point where construction and
destruction can no longer be brandished one against the
other. It is also clear that Surrealism is not intrested in
giving very serious consideration to anything that happens
outside of itself, under the guise of art, or even anti-art,
of philosophy or anti-philosophy-in short, of anything not
aimed at the annihilation of the being into a diamond, all
blind and interior, which is no more the soul of ice than
that of fire. What could those people who are still con-
cerned about the position they occupy in the world expect
from the Surrealist experiment? In this mental site, from
which one can no longer set forth except for oneself on a
dangerous but, we think, supreme feat of reconnaissance,
it is likewise out of the question that the slightest heed be
paid to the footsteps of those who arrive or to the footsteps
of those who leave, since these footsteps occur in a region
where by definition Surrealism has no ear to hear. We
would not want Surrealism to be at the mercy of the
whims of this or that group of persons; if it declares that
it is able, by its own means, to uproot thought from an
increasingly cruel state of thralldom, to steer it back onto
the path of total comprehension, return it to its original
purity-that is enough for it to be judged only on what it
has done and what it still has to do in order to keep its

Before proceeding, however, to verify the balance sheet,
it is worthwhile to know just what kind of moral virtures
Surrealism lays claim to, since, moreover, it plunges its
roots into life and, no doubt not by chance, into the life
of his period, seeing that I laden this life with anecdotes
like the sky, the sound of a watch, the cold, a malaise, that
is, I begin to speak about it in a vulgar manner. To think
these things, to hold any rung whatever of this weather-
beaten ladder-none of us is beyond such things until he
has passed through the last stage of asceticism. It is in fact
from the disgusting cauldron of these meaningless mental
images that the desire to proceed beyond the insufficient,
the absurd, distinction between the beautiful and the
ugly, true and false, good and evil, is born and sustained.
And, as it is the degree of resistance that this choice idea
meets with which determines the more or less certain
flight of the mind toward a world at last inhabitable, one
can understand why Surrealism was not afraid to make for
itself a tenet of total revolt, complete insubordination, of
sabotage according to rule, and why it still expects nothing
save from violence. The simplest Surrealist act consists of
dashing down into the street, pistol in hand, and firing
blindly, as fast as you can pull the trigger, into the crowd.
Anyone who, at least once in his life, has not dreamed of
thus putting an end to the petty system of debasement and
cretinization in effect has a well-defined place in that
crowd, with his belly at barrel level.

If, through Surrealism,
we reject unhesitatingly the notion of the sole possibility
of the things which "are," and if we ourselves declare that
by a path which "is," a path which we can show and help
people to follow, one can arrive at what people claimed
"was not," if we cannot find words enough to stigmatize
the baseness of Western thought, if we are not afraid to
take up arms against logic, if we refuse to wear that some-
thing we do in dreams is less meaningful than something
we do in a state of waking, if we are not even sure that we
will not do away with time, that sinister old farce, that
train constantly jumping off the track, mad pulsation, in-
extricable conglomeration of breaking and broken beasts,
how do you expect us to show any tenderness, even to be
tolerant, toward an apparatus of social conservation, of
whatever sort it may be? That would be the only madness
truly unacceptable on our part. Everything remains to be
done, every means must be worth trying, in order to lay
waste to the ideas of family, country, religion. No matter
how well known the Surrealist position may be with re-
spect to this matter, still it must be stressed that on this
point there is no room for compromise. Those who make
it their duty to maintain this position persist in advancing
this negation, in belittling any other criterion of value.
They intend to savor fully the profound grief, so well
played, with which the bourgeois public-inevitably pre-
pared in their base way to forgive them a few "youthful"
errors-greets the steadfast and unyielding need they dis-
play to laugh like savages in the presence of the French
flag, to vomit their disgust in the face of every priest, and
to level at the breed of "basic duties" the long-range
weapon of sexual cynicism. We combat, in whatever form
they may appear, poetic indifference, the distraction of art,
scholarly research, pure speculation; we want nothing
whatever to do with those, either large or small, who use
their minds as they would a savings banks. All the forsaken
acquaintances, all the abdications, all the betrayals in the
book will not prevent us from putting an end to this damn
nonsense. It is noteworthy, moreover, that when they are
left to their own devices, and to nothing else, the people
who one day made it necessary for us to do without them
have straightway lost their footing, have been immediately
forced to resort to the most miserable expedients in order
to reingratiate themselves with the defenders of law and
order, all proud partisans of leveling via the head. This is
because unflagging fidelity to the commitments of Surreal-
ism presupposes a disinterestedness, a contempt for risk, a
refusal to compromise, of which very few men prove, in
the long run, to be capable. Were there to remain not a
single one, from among all those who were the first to mea-
sure by its standards their chance for significance and their
desire for truth, yet would Surrealism continue to live. In
any event, it is too late for the seed not to sprout and grow
in infinite abundance in the human field, with fear and
the other varieties of weeds that must prevail over all.

Surrealism is less inclined than ever to dispense with this
integrity, or to sit idly by while this person or that thinks
he is free to abandon it, under the vague, the odious pre-
text that he has to live. We want nothing to do with this
dole of "talents." What we are asking is, we think, such
as to bring about an acquiescence, an utter refusal, and
not to indulge in words, to sustain erratic hopes. Does one
or does one not want to risk everything for the mere
pleasure of perceiving in the distance, at the bottom of the
crucible into which we propose to cast our slim resources,
what is still left of our good reputation and our doubts,
together pell-mell with the pretty, "sensitive" glassware,
the radical notion of impotence and the foolishness of our
so-called duties, the light that will cease to fail?
We submit that the Surrealist endeavor can only hope
to be crowned with success if it is carried out under con-
ditions of moral asepsis which very few people in this day
and age are interested in hearing about. Without these
conditions, it is, however, impossible to arrest the spread
of this cancer of the mind which consists of thinking all
too sadly that certain things "are," while others, which
well might be, "are not." We have suggested that they must
merge into each other, or very perceptibley impinge upon
each other at their respective limits. It is a matter, not of
remaining there at that point, but of not being able to do
less than to strain desperately toward that limit.
Man, who would wrongly allow himself to be in-
timidated by a few monstrous historical failures, is still
free to believe in his freedom. He is his own master, in
spite of the old clouds which pass and his blind forces
which encounter obstacles. Doesn't he have any inkling of
the brief beauty concealed and of the long and accessible
beauty that can be revealed? Let him also look carefully
for the key to love, which the poet claimed to have found:
he has it. It is up to him and him alone to rise above the
fleeting sentiment of living dangerously and of dying. Let
him, in spite of any restrictions, use the avenging arm of
the idea against the bestiality of all beings and of all things,
and let him one day, vanquished-but vanquished only if
the world is the world-welcome the discharge of his sad
rifles like a salvo fired in salute.