The Vice of Surrealism

The Abbe Gengenbach:

A Jesuit Abbe, he had fallen in love with an actress at the Odeon and in her company frequented restaurants and dance halls. Defrocked by his bishop, he had lost his mistress, who loved him only in his cassock, and had happened to pick up an issue of La Revolution surrealiste at the moment he was thinking of suicide. Hence he did not fling himself into the Gerardmer lake as he had planned, but entered into relations with Breton and his friends. He was to be seen at the Dome or the Rotonde, a flower in the buttonhole of his soutane, which he had begun wearing again as a provocation, a woman on his lap, vilified by the respectable passers-by whom he delighted in scandalizing. He divided his time between a scabrous worldly life, periods of calm with a Russian woman, an artist, in Clamart, and retreats at the Abbey of Solesmes. When there were rumors that the prodigal was about to return to the bosom of the Church, Gengenbach enlightened the surrealists in a letter to Breton:

It is my custom to go several times a year to rest and recover my spirits with the monks... and the surrealist circle is well aware of my pronounced taste for escapades in monasteries...As for the ecclesiastical habit, I wear it by caprice for the moment because my suit is torn...I also find it affords me certain advantages in initiating sadistic relations with the American women who pick me up in the Bois at night... I have found no solution, no escape, no pragmatism that is acceptable. There remains my faith in Christ, cigarettes, and the jazz records I love--"Tea for Two," "Yearning" --and above all, there remains surrealism.

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