Talking About Literature

Allen Ginsberg and  Philp Whalen, in Allen’s East 12th St apartment, New York City 1984

 

Allen Ginsberg: I (know) a couple of lines (of German) – ” Du bist wie eine Blume/so..schon und..” (Heinrich Heine)

Philip Whalen: I’d like to take the Rilke out of .. as much German as I’ve absorbed, totally out of the air, and out of the imagination, and what-not, to look at The Duino Elegies and so on, and get some comfort and charm out of the sound of the things as they go by. But, as far (as).. if you asked me to render a single line, I’d be.. I might recognize some lone word, or something like that, but otherwise, I’d be totally flummoxed, I wouldn’t have any idea.

I do the same thing with Lorca. Although I can guess better at Lorca because it’s nearer to a Latin trip, but I enjoy looking at the Lorca texts in Spanish. But we all learn from the same people. From Rilke and Lorca and Thomas Mann and from (Marcel) Proust, and..

Allen Ginsberg: I never could get much out of Lorca. Just a continuous breath..

Philip Whalen: Oh, there’s a thing about weather..

Allen Ginsberg: …The Duino Elegies, but that’s all.

Philip Whalen: Yeah, but in Lorca, there’s a thing about the smell of things and the shape, the colors of things, and about the weather, about how hot it is and how cold it is, which I find really nice.

Allen Ginsberg: I’ve always seen him as a bad influence on people. They get really.. sad and romantic.

Philip Whalen: It’s very thin, it’s really thin stuff the Lorca materials are, I think, but still they’re very pretty. The Rilke thing is very.. it gets smeary

Allen Ginsberg: I’m sorry. I was talking about Rilke.

Philip Whalen: Well, he tends to smear..

Allen Ginsberg: Yeah.

Philip Whalen: ..as far as I can see. And he’s like Richard Strauss, he gets.. exactly, he gets imprecise and floppy around the edges, and it just gets pretty.. and, I think it’s wonderful that..the greatest thing about Rilke is that he died after picking a rose and getting stuck on one of the thorns. What actually happened was that it turned out that the wound from being poked by this rose-thorn didn’t heal up and he actually had leukemia, but they didn’t know it until right that minute, or a couple of months later, when he still had this hole in him. He was actually dying of leukemia. But it was quite wonderful to be pricked by a rose and die. I always thought more kindly of him on that account.

Philip Whalen: And also when I was in the army, a friend gave me a copy, a little single volume of the Letters To A Young Poet, which I treasured. I really thought that was some of the wisest, most marvelous, most inspiring stuff that anybody ever said about the calling of being a poet.. were these letters that he’d written to..very stuffy, actually.. letters to this young kid who was writing to him about, “How do you be a poet?”, and, “I’m discouraged”, and “Please tell me what to do next?”, and so on. And Rilke wrote these very studied and very careful, very beautiful, replies to him, and I don’t know whether the kid ever amounted to anything, but they..

Allen Ginsberg: No, he didn’t.

Philip Whalen: ..but the replies are much more.. and I do like the prose… the thing I was talking about yesterday, about writing prose with the care of poetry, where the Malte Laurids Brigge‘s right on top, every minute, right now. Right on top of each event, each particle is going by, he’s right there with it. And so it works a lot better than a lot of the poems, except.. I don’t know. That’s quite wonderful where that angel comes in and grabs him in the first Duino Elegy..and says, “Shape up” (and, poor sap, that took him twenty years to shape up there!)

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Poetry Spoken and Sung

Baptism: A Journey Through Our Time was a 1968 album of poetry spoken and sung by Joan Baez.

Artwork by Robert Peak. Design by Jules Halfant

 

TRACK LISTING

Old Welsh Song” (Henry Treece)
2.”I Saw the Vision of Armies” (Walt Whitman)
3.”Minister of War” (Arthur Waley)
4.”Song In the Blood” (Lawrence Ferlinghetti/Jacques Prévert)
5.”Casida of the Lament” (J.L. Gili/Federico García Lorca)
6.”Of the Dark Past” (James Joyce)
7.”London” (William Blake)
8.”In Guernica” (Norman Rosten)
9.”Who Murdered the Minutes” (Henry Treece)
10.”Oh, Little Child” (Henry Treece)
11.”No Man Is an Island” (John Donne)
12.”Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man” (James Joyce)
13.”All the Pretty Little Horses” (traditional)
14.”Childhood III” (Arthur Rimbaud/Louis Varese)
15.”The Magic Wood” (Henry Treece)
16.”Poems from the Japanese” (Kenneth Rexroth)
17.”Colours” (P. Levi, R. Milner-Gulland, Yevgeny Yevtushenko)
18.”All in green went my love riding” (E. E. Cummings)
19.”Gacela of the Dark Death” (Federico García Lorca/Stephen Spender)
20.”The Parable of the Old Man and the Young” (Wilfred Owen)
21.”Evil” (N. Cameron/Arthur Rimbaud)
22.”Epitaph for a Poet” (Countee Cullen)
23.”Mystic Numbers- 36″
24.”When The Shy Star Goes Forth In Heaven” (James Joyce)
25.”The Angel” (William Blake)
26.”Old Welsh Song” (Henry Treece)

 

Joan Baez‘s most unusual album, Baptism is of a piece with the “concept” albums of the late ’60s, but more ambitious than most and different from all of them. Baez by this time was immersed in various causes, concerning the Vietnam War, the human condition, and the general state of the world, and it seemed as though every note of music that she sang was treated as important — sometimes in a negative way by her opponents; additionally, popular music was changing rapidly, and even rock groups that had seldom worried in their music about too much beyond the singer’s next sexual conquest were getting serious. Baptism was Baez getting more serious than she already was, right down to the settings of her music, and redirecting her talent from folk song to art song, complete with orchestral accompaniment. Naturally, her idea of a concept album would differ from that of, say, Frank Sinatra or The Beatles. Baptism was a body of poetry selected, edited, and read and sung by Baez, and set to music by Peter Schickele (better known for his comical musical “discoveries” associated with “P.D.Q. Bach,” but also a serious musician and composer). In 1968, amid the strife spreading across the world, the album had a built-in urgency that made it work as a mixture of art and message — today, it seems like a precious and overly self-absorbed period piece.

A clip of Whitman’s poem spoken by Joan Baez can be listened on The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228

Beasts Bounding Through Time

 
 

“Van Gogh writing his brother for paints
Hemingway testing his shotgun
Céline going broke as a doctor of medicine
the impossibility of being human
Villon expelled from Paris for being a thief
Faulkner drunk in the gutters of his town
the impossibility of being human
Burroughs killing his wife with a gun
Mailer stabbing his
the impossibility of being human
Maupassant going mad in a rowboat
Dostoevsky lined up against a wall to be shot
Crane off the back of a boat into the propeller
the impossibility
Sylvia with her head in the oven like a baked potato
Harry Crosby leaping into that Black Sun
Lorca murdered in the road by the Spanish troops
the impossibility
Artaud sitting on a madhouse bench
Chatterton drinking rat poison
Shakespeare a plagiarist
Beethoven with a horn stuck into his head against deafness
the impossibility the impossibility
Nietzsche gone totally mad
the impossibility of being human
all too human
this breathing
in and out
out and in
these punks
these cowards
these champions
these mad dogs of glory
moving this little bit of light toward
us
impossibly”

Charles Bukowski

You Get So Alone at Times That it Just Makes Sense

1986

Death to Van Gogh’s Ear

Emilia Fox, Arielle Dombasle and Annabel Brooks in Hideous Man (John Malkovich, 2002). Dresses by Bella Freud. Shoes by Christian Louboutin

 
 

Poet is Priest
Money has reckoned the soul of America
Congress broken thru the precipice of Eternity
the president built a War machine which will vomit and rear Russia out of Kansas
The American Century betrayed by a mad Senate which no longer sleeps with its wife.
Franco has murdered Lorca the fairy son of Whitman
just as Mayakovsky committed suicide to avoid Russia
Hart Crane distinguished Platonist committed suicide to cave in the wrong
America
just as Million tons of human wheat were burned in secret caverns under the White House
While India starved and screamed and ate mad dogs full of rain
and mountains of eggs were reduced to white powder in the halls of Congress
no Godfearing man will walk there again because of the stink of the rotten eggs of America
and the Indians of Chiapas continue to gnaw their vitaminless tortillas
aborigines of Australia perhaps gibber in the eggless wilderness
and I rarely have an egg for breakfast tho my work requires infinite eggs to come to birth in Eternity
eggs should be eaten or given to their mothers
and the grief of the countless chickens of America is expressed in the screaming of her comedians over the radio
Detroit has built a million automobiles of rubber trees and phantoms
but I walk, I walk, and the Orient walks with me, and all Africa walks
And sooner or later North America will walk
Einstein alive was mocked for his heavenly politics
Bertrand Russell driven from New York for getting laid
immortal Chaplin driven form our shores with a rose in his teeth
a secret conspiracy by Catholic Church in the lavatories of
Congress has denied contraceptives to the unceasing masses of India.
Nobody publishes a word that is not the cowardly robot ravings of a depraved mentality
The day of the publication of true literature of the American
body will be day of Revolution
the revolution of the sexy lamb
the only bloodless revolution that gives away corn
poor Genet will illuminate the harvesters of Ohio
Marijuana is a benevolent narcotic but J. Edgar Hoover prefers his deathly Scotch
And the heroin of Lao-Tze & the Sixth Patriarch is punished by the electric chair
but the poor sick junkies have nowhere to lay their heads
fiends in our government have invented a cold-turkey cure for
addiction as obsolete as the Defense Early Warning Radar System.
I am the defense early warning radar system
I see nothing but bombs
I am not interested in preventing Asia from being Asia
and the governments of Russia and Asia will rise and fall but
Asia and Russia will not fall
The government of America also will fall but how can America fall
I doubt if anyone will ever fall anymore except governments
fortunately all the governments will fall
the only ones which won’t fall are the good ones
and the good ones don’t yet exist
But they have no being existing they exist in my poems
they exist in the death of the Russian and American governments
they exist in the death of Hart Crane & Mayakovsky
now is the time of prophecy without death as a consequence
the universe will ultimately disappear
Hollywood will not rot on the windmills of Eternity
Hollywood whose movies stick in the throat of God
Yes Hollywood will get what it deserves
Time
Seepage of nerve-gas over the radio
History will make this poem prophetic and its awful silliness a hideous spiritual music
I have the moan of doves and the feather of ecstasy
Man cannot long endure the hunger of the cannibal abstract
War is abstract
the world will be destroyed
Monument to Socco & Vanzetti not yet financed to ennoble Boston
Vachel Lindsay Secretary of Interior
Poe Secretary of Imagination
Pound Secty. Economics
and Kra belongs to Kra, and Pukti to Pukti
crossfertilization of Blok and Artaud
Van Gogh’s ear on the currency
no more propaganda for monsters
and poets should stay out of politics or become monsters
I have become monstrous with politics
the Russian poet undoubtedly monstrous in his secret notebook
Tibet should be left alone
these are obvious prophecies
America will be destroyed
Russian poets will struggle with Russia
Whitman warned against this “Fabled Damned of nations”
Where was Theodore Roosevelt when he sent out ultimatums from his castle in Camden
Where was the House of Representatives when Crane read aloud from his Prophetic Books
What was Wall Street scheming when Lindsay announced the doom of money
Where they listening to my ravings in the locker rooms of
Bricksford Employment Offices?
Did they bend their ears to the moans of my soul when I struggled
with market research statistics in the Forum of Rome?
No they were fighting in their fiery offices , on the carpets of
heart failure, screaming and Bargaining with Destiny
fighting the Skeleton with sabers, muskets, buck-teeth,
indigestion, bombs of larceny, whoredom, rockets, and pederasty,
back to the wall to build up their wives and apartments, lawns,
suburbs,
fairydoms,
Puerto Ricans crowded for massacre on 114th St. for the sake of an
imitation Chinese-Moderne refrigerator
Elephants of mercy murdered for the sake of the Elizabethan birdcage
millions of agitated fanatics in the bughouse for the sake of the screaming
soprano of industry
Money-chant of soapers – toothpaste apes in television sets – deodorizers on hypnotic chairs –
petroleum mongers in Texas – jet plane streaks among the clouds –
sky writers liars in the face of Divinity–fanged butchers of hats and shoes,
all Owners! Owners! Owners! with obsession on property and vanished Selfhood!
and their long editorials on the fence of the screaming negro attacked by
ants crawled out of the front page!
Machinery of a mass electrical dream! A war-creating whore of Babylon
bellowing over Capitols and Academies!
Money! Money! Money! shrieking mad celestial money of illusion!
Money made of nothing, starvation, suicide! Money of failure! Money of death!
Money against Eternity! and eternity’s strong mills grind out vast paper of
Illusion!

Allen Ginsberg

Carmen on The Big Screen

American silent drama film directed by Cecil B. DeMille (1915)

 
 

Theda Bara, epitome of the vamps, in a scene from Carmen (Raoul Walsh, 1915)

 
 

Gypsy Blood, 1918 German silent drama film directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring Pola Negri, Harry Liedtke and Leopold von Ledebur

 
 

Carmen Jones (Otto Preminger, 1954)

 
 

Venezuelan late actress Mayra Alejandra as Carmen, la que contaba 16 años (Carmen, Who Was 16 Years Old), directed by Román Chalbaud (1978)

 
 

Carmen (Carlos Saura, 1983). It was directed and choreographed in the flamenco style by Carlos Saura and María Pagés. It is the second part of Saura’s flamenco trilogy in the 1980s, preceded by Bodas de sangre and followed by El amor brujo, both inspired by Federico García Lorca.

 
 

Directed by Francesco Rosi (1984). Julia Migenes stars in the title role, Plácido Domingo as Don José, Ruggero Raimondi as Escamillo, and Faith Esham as Micaela. Rosi acknowledged Gustave Doré‘s illustrations for Baron Charles Davilliers Spain (which was published in serial form in 1873) as his principal source for the visual design. He believed that Bizet, who never visited Spain, was guided by these engravings, and shot scenes in some of the exact places that Doré drew.

 
 

This 2003 film was made with high production values and was another success with audiences for the veteran Spanish director Vicente Aranda

 
 

Carmen: A Hip Hopera is a 2001 musical film produced for television by MTV and directed by Robert Townsend. The film stars Beyoncé Knowles in her debut acting role, Mos Def, Rah Digga, Wyclef Jean, Mekhi Phifer, Da Brat, Joy Bryant, Jermaine Dupri and Lil’ Bow Wow.

References to Franz Kafka and Popular Culture

 
 

Haruki Murakami makes numerous literary, musical and film references throughout the novel Kakfa on the Shore, particularly to (who else?) Franz Kafka. Several of the characters in the book have a relationship with Kafka or “Kafkaesque” themes, the most obvious being the name the protagonist gives to himself, Kafka Tamura. While the reader never finds out his real name, he explains why he chooses the name Kafka to represent his identity. But why Kafka? It is possible that Murakami used Franz Kafka to emphasize themes of isolation and alienation, as well as to critique forms of Japanese bureaucracy and the police force investigating his father’s murder in particular.

 
 

“Nobody’s going to help me. At least no one has up till now. So I have to make it on my own. I have to get stronger–like a stray crow. That’s why I gave myself the name Kafka. That’s what Kafka means in Czech, you know–crow.”

 
 

Franz Kafka is also a figure that draws many of the characters together. Kafka Tamura is only allowed to stay in the library after revealing his name, which has an profound effect on the library staff. The tragedy of the death of Miss Saeki’s lover is shown in a song she writes for him, named Kafka on the Shore, which also becomes the title of the book. There is a consistently a switching of identities concerning the protagonist which all seem linked in some way or another to Franz Kafka. He switches from 15 year-old runaway, to “Crow”, his alter-ego, to Miss Saeki’s 15-year old boyfriend (who is also named Kafka by Miss Saeki) when he enters his old quarters. In this way, Murakami ties together some of the surreal events in the book by using Franz Kafka as a continuous reference.

With the majority of the novel being set in a library, it is abundant with literary and musical references. Much like the Franz Kafka reference, Murakami uses these references a moments in the plot that draw characters together. In their isolation, the main characters are absorbed in literature, music, and art, providing a starting point for much of their conversations and relationships. In addition to the obvious Oedipial reference throughout the novel, as Kafka searches desperately for his mother and sister, however at the same time, Murakami brings references from popular culture to life, adding a surreal and oddly comical overlay to the events in the novel. In a parallel storyline, Kafka Tamura’s father, brilliant sculptor and crazed cat murderer, takes on the pseudonym of Johnnie Walker. Colonel Sanders, the KFC icon, becomes a character in the novel, a pimp that guides Nakata and Hoshino to Takamatsu and the library, merging both storylines. Truck driver Hoshino, throws away his job and uproots himself after listening to Beethoven’s Archduke Trio, while Kafka Tamura calms himself in an isolated cabin, listening to Prince on his walkman. Murakami cultivates these references similarly to the way he develops architecture in the novel; both historical and contemporary, they blur the passing of time and are devices for the character’s self exploration and identity.

 
 

LITERARY REFERENCES:

The Book of Thousand Nights and a Night, Translated by Sir Richard Francis Burton

The Banquet, by Plato

The Castle, by Franz Kafka

The Trial, by Franz Kafka

The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka

In The Penal Colony, by Franz Kafka

• Complete Works of Natsume Sōseki

The Tale Of Genji, by Lady Murasaki Shikibu, translated by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki

Trial of Adolf Eichmann, (Unknown)

Macbeth, by William Shakespeare

Hamlet, by William Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare

Agamemnon, by Aeschylus

The Trojan Women, by Euripides

Rhetoric, by Aristotle

Poetics, by Aristotle

Electra, by Sophocles

Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles

The Hollow Men (poem), by T. S. Eliot

Tales of Moonlight and Rain, by Ueda Akinari

Matter and Memory, by Henri Bergson

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Aladdin, Added by Antoine Galland to French translation of The Book of Thousand Nights and a Night

The Frog Prince, The Brothers Grimm

Hansel and Gretel, by The Brothers Grimm

Uncle Vanya, by Anton Chekhov

A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, by Jean Jacques Rousseau

 
 

AUTHORIAL REFERENCES:

Leo Tolstoy

Federico García Lorca

Ernest Hemingway

Charles Dickens

 
 

MUSIC REFERENCES:

Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, by The Beatles

The White Album, by The Beatles

As Time Goes By, from the movie Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)

Blonde on Blonde, by Bob Dylan

Mi chiamano Mimi, from La Bohème, by Giacomo Puccini

Sonata in D Major (known as the Gasteiner), by Franz Schubert

Crossroads, by Cream

Little Red Corvette, by Prince

Greatest Hits, by Prince

Sittin’ On The Dock of the Bay, by Otis Redding

Archduke Trio, (by Rubinstein, Heifetz and Feuermann) by Ludwig van Beethoven

First cello concerto, (solo by Pierre Fournier) by Franz Joseph Haydn

Posthorn Serenade, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Kid A, by Radiohead

My Favourite Things, by John Coltrane

Getz/Gilberto, by Stan Getz

 
 

ARTIST/COMPOSER REFERENCES:

Duke Ellington

Led Zeppelin

Schumann

Alfred Brendel

Rolling Stones

Beach Boys

Simon & Garfunkel

Stevie Wonder

Johann Sebastian Bach

Hector Berlioz

Richard Wagner

Franz Liszt

Come to What Crowns You

“…Come to what crowns you, youth of health,
gay butterfly, youth pure
as a black lightning perpetually free;
and talking between ourselves.
Now, when no one is left among the rocks,
let us speak simply, as you are, as I am:
what are the verses for, if not for the dew?
What are the verses for, if not for this night
in which a bitter dagger finds us out, for this day,
for this twilight, for this broken corner
where the beaten heart of man prepares to die?…”

Pablo Neruda
Ode to Federico García Lorca

 
 

Allégorie de soie (Allegory of the Sun), Salvador Dalí, 1950

The Love of the Tiny

Dali Nude, in Contemplation Before the Five Regular Bodies Metamorphosed into Corpuscles, in Which Suddenly Appears the Leda of Leonardo Chromosomatized by the Visage of Gala, 1954

 
 

Ants. Pebbles. Bread crumbs. Hairs on the back of the neck. Sewing needles. Record needles. Blackheads. Subatomic particles. Strands of DNA. Salvador Dalí loved tiny things. He loved them in the twenties, when he was living in Barcelona and searching for an artistic direction that would be his own. He loved them in the thirties, when he was living in Paris among the surrealist painters and poets. And he loved them in the forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, and eighties, when he was living in New York as an artist of international fame. Indeed, if there was one constant in Dalí’s career it was the love of the tiny. Throughout the many years of his career, Dalí embraced a wide range of sometimes contradictory orientations and perspectives: Federico García Lorca’s poetic of the folk, Le Corbusier’s modernism of the machine, André Breton’s surrealism of the marvelous.

 
 

Tête Raphaëlesque éclatée [Exploding Raphaelesque Head]1951

 
 

These, however, were short-lived identifications (even the last one). His love of little things, on the other hand — of things that exist at the boundary of perception and on the edge of cognition — was a love Dali never abandoned.

Dalí’s identification with things small was to influence almost every aspect of the painter’s art and writing. It shaped his conception of modernism, of the avant-garde, and above all, of Sigmund Freud and his significance. Of course, all of the surrealists were influenced by Freud; in this regard, Dalí was no different. What distinguished him from his contemporaries was that, in his mind, Freud was most properly understood as a theorist of the tiny. For at the core of Dalí’s most significant and lasting contribution to surrealism’s psychoanalytic discourse — the concept of “paranoia-criticism”— was a belief in the power of little things to dig deep within our mind and then to resurface anew to wreak havoc on reality.

Of all his early writings on the subject of the small, the most evocative is a poem that Dalí first wrote in Spanish in the fall of 1927 and then published in Catalan in the August 31, 1928, issue of the journal L’Amic de les Arts (Friend of the arts). Titled “Poema de les cosetes” (Poem of little things), this brief, ten-line
verse articulated Dalí’s universe of the tiny as a realm of infinite transformation in which soft flesh turns sharp and spiky, solids become gas, and “little charms prick”:

 
 

“There’s a tiny little thing in a spot up high.
I’m happy, I’m happy, I’m happy, I’m happy.
The sewing needles plunge into sweet and tender little bits of nickel.
My girlfriend’s hand is made of cork full of thumbtacks.
One of my girlfriend’s breasts is a calm sea urchin, the other a swarming
wasp’s nest.
My girlfriend has a knee of smoke.
The little charms, the little charms, the little charms, the little charms, the
little charms, the little charms, the little charms, the little charms. . .
the little charms prick.
The partridge’s eye is red.
Little things, little things, little things, little things, little things, little
things, little things, little things, little things, little things, little things,
little things . . .
there are little things as still as a loaf of bread.

 
 

Two Pieces of Bread Expressing the Sentiment of Love (1940)

Suppressed Human Emotions

Stills from Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog)

 
 

Federico García Lorca crowded his thoughts onto a sheet of stationery from a Barcelona cafe. “I want to weep,” he wrote to Salvador Dalí. “I’ve behaved like an indecent donkey’s ass with you, you who are the best thing in the world for me. As the minutes go by I see it clearly and I am truly sorry. But this only increases my affection for you and my attachment to your way of thinking and your human quality.” Lorca avoided saying more about what had taken place between the two men.

The friendship with Lorca had a strong element of mutual passion, but Dalí rejected the erotic advances of the poet. With the success of Gypsy Ballads, came an estrangement from Dalí and the breakdown of a love affair with sculptor Emilio Soriano Aladrén. These brought on an increasing depression to Lorca, a situation exacerbated by his anguish over his homosexuality. He felt he was trapped between the persona of the successful author, which he was forced to maintain in public, and the tortured, authentic self, which he could only acknowledge in private. He also had the sense that he was being pigeon-holed as a “gypsy poet”. He wrote: “The gypsies are a theme. And nothing more. I could just as well be a poet of sewing needles or hydraulic landscapes. Besides, this gypsyism gives me the appearance of an uncultured, ignorant and primitive poet that you know very well I’m not. I don’t want to be typecast”. Growing estrangement between García Lorca and his closest friends reached its climax when surrealists Dalí and Luis Buñuel collaborated on their film Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog). García Lorca interpreted it, perhaps erroneously, as a vicious attack upon himself. At this time Dalí also met his future wife Gala. Aware of these problems (though not perhaps of their causes), García Lorca’s family arranged for him to take a lengthy visit to the United States in 1929–30.

 
 

 
 

Un Chien Andalou is a 1929 silent surrealist short film by the Spanish director Luis Buñuel and artist Salvador Dalí. It was Buñuel’s first film and was initially released in 1929 with a limited showing at Studio des Ursulines in Paris, but became popular and ran for eight months. The film has no plot in the conventional sense of the word. The chronology of the film is disjointed, jumping from the initial “once upon a time” to “eight years later” without the events or characters changing very much. It uses dream logic in narrative flow that can be described in terms of then-popular Freudian free association, presenting a series of tenuously related scenes. The film was financed by Buñuel’s mother, and shot in Le Havre and Paris at the Billancourt studios over a period of 10 days in March 1928.

The film has no plot in the conventional sense of the word. The chronology of the film is disjointed, jumping from the initial “once upon a time” to “eight years later” without the events or characters changing very much. It uses dream logic in narrative flow that can be described in terms of then-popular Freudian free association, presenting a series of tenuously related scenes.

The film opens with a title card reading “Once upon a time”. A middle-aged man (Luis Buñuel) sharpens his razor at his balcony door and tests the razor on his thumb. He then opens the door, and idly fingers the razor while gazing at the moon, about to be engulfed by a thin cloud, from his balcony.

 
 

There is a cut to a close-up of a young woman (Simone Mareuil) being held by the man as she calmly stares straight ahead. Another cut occurs to the moon being overcome by the cloud as the man slits the woman’s eye with the razor, and the vitreous humour spills out from it.

 
 

The shot of the eyeball (actually that of a dead calf) being slit by Buñuel

 
 

The subsequent title card reads “eight years later”. A slim young man (Pierre Batcheff) bicycles down a calm urban street wearing what appears to be a nun’s habit and a striped box with a strap around his neck. A cut occurs to the young woman from the first scene, who has been reading in a sparingly furnished upstairs apartment. She hears the young man approaching on his bicycle and casts aside the book she was reading (revealing a reproduction of Vermeer’s The Lacemaker). She goes to the window and sees the young man lying on the curb, his bicycle on the ground. She emerges from the building and attempts to revive the young man.

 
 

An image from Dalí’s dream, part of the inspiration for the film

 
 

The idea for the film began when Buñuel was working as an assistant director for Jean Epstein in France. Buñuel told Dalí at a restaurant one day about a dream in which a cloud sliced the moon in half “like a razor blade slicing through an eye”. Dalí responded that he’d dreamed about a hand crawling with ants. Excitedly, Buñuel declared: “There’s the film, let’s go and make it.'” They were fascinated by what the psyche could create, and decided to write a script based on the concept of suppressed human emotions.

 
 

Jaime Miravilles and Salvador Dalí as the confused priests

 
 

In deliberate contrast to the approach taken by Jean Epstein and his peers, which was to never leave anything in their work to chance, with every aesthetic decision having a rational explanation and fitting clearly into the whole,  Buñuel made clear throughout his writings that, between Dalí and himself, the only rule for the writing of the script was: “No idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted.” He also stated: “Nothing, in the film, symbolizes anything. The only method of investigation of the symbols would be, perhaps, psychoanalysis.”

 
 

 
 

Over the course of his long career Dalí associated his work with a wide range of predecessors (including Paul Cézanne, Le Corbusier, Giorgio de Chirico, Arnold Böcklin, and later Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci), but none of them came close to rivaling Johannes Vermeer. Throughout his life Dalí remained entirely unwavering in his belief that Vermeer was the greatest painter who ever lived and the artist whom he most dearly wished to emulate.

The first screening of Un Chien Andalou took place at Studio des Ursulines, with an audience of le tout-Paris. Notable attendees of the première included Pablo Picasso, Le Corbusier, Jean Cocteau, Christian Bérard and George Auric, in addition to the entirety of André Breton‘s Surrealist group. The audience’s positive reception of the film amazed Buñuel, who was relieved that no violence ensued. Dalí, on the contrary, was reportedly disappointed, feeling the audience’s reaction made the evening “less exciting.” Buñuel since claimed that prior to the show, he had put stones in his pockets “to throw at the audience in case of disaster”, although others had no recollection of this.

 
 

A death’s-head moth

 
 

Against his hopes and expectations, the film was a huge success amongst the French bourgeoisie, leading Buñuel to exclaim in exasperation, “What can I do about the people who adore all that is new, even when it goes against their deepest convictions, or about the insincere, corrupt press, and the inane herd that saw beauty or poetry in something which was basically no more than a desperate impassioned call for murder?”

Modern prints of the film feature a soundtrack consisting of excerpts from Richard Wagner‘s “Liebestod” from his opera Tristan und Isolde and a recording of two Argentinian tangos sometimes mistakenly referred to as “Olé guapa.” This is the same soundtrack that Buñuel chose and played live on a phonograph during the original 1929 screening in Paris. They were first added to a print of the film in 1960 under Buñuel’s supervision.

Film scholar Ken Dancyger has argued that Un Chien Andalou might be the genesis of the filmmaking style present in the modern music video. Roger Ebert had called it the inspiration for low budget independent films.

Honey is Sweeter Than Blood

“! O friendship, how piercing are your darts..”

Virginia Woolf

The Waves

 
 

We know from correspondence with Federico García Lorca and other friends of the painter such as Sebastià Gasch that Salvador Dalí used to refer to the now-disappeared painting as the Apparatus Forest, while on this oil painting we can clearly read in the lower left-hand corner: Etude pour “Le miel est plus douce que la sang” [sic]. The highly poetical expression of the title takes its inspiration, as Dalí explains in The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí, from words used by Lídia de Cadaqués: “[…] Lídia began to pluck it, and soon the whole room was covered in feathers. When this operation was over, she cleaned the chicken, and with her fingers dripping with blood, she began to pull out its viscera which she arranged neatly on a separate dish on the crystal table, where I had laid a very expensive book of facsimiles of the drawings of Giovanni Bellini. Observing that I jumped up anxiously to remove the book against the possibility of splashing, Lydia smiled bitterly, and said, “Blood does not spot” and then she immediately added this sentence, which a malicious expression in her eyes charged with erotic hidden meanings, “Blood is sweeter than honey. I,” she went on, “am blood, and honey is all the other women! My sons…” (this she added in a low voice) “at this moment are against blood and are running after honey.’”

 
 

The Rotting Donkey, Salvador Dalí,  1928

 
 

This work is also of great interest due to its being the study for a now-disappeared painting called Honey is Sweeter than Blood, dating from 1927. In the Study we might particularly note the same iconographic features that make the finished work so special: the apparatuses, the severed head, the blood, the rotting donkey, etc., features that refer us back to the painter’s “new aesthetic” and in which we can observe the first clear references to Surrealism. This “new aesthetic” is the one formally announced in some of his articles published in L’Amic de les Arts, such as Sant Sebastià or La meva amiga i la platja, and also discussed with his friend the poet García Lorca in the letters they exchanged over that period.

We are likewise aware that Dalí’s pictorial work cannot be separated from his written work. This characteristic trait of the painter’s trajectory arose at this very time, while he was gestating Honey is Sweeter than Blood and therefore engaged in this study for that work. These paintings and the text are indicative of a turning point in Dalí’s art following a period of several years in which he had been experimenting with a broad diversity of modern and contemporary styles.

 
 

Study for Honey is Sweeter than Blood, Salvador Dalí, 1926. Dalí placed a likeness of Lorca’s head, with its neck severed, eyes wide open, and a trickle of blood seeping from its mouth near the donkey.

 
 

Apparatus and Hand (1927)

It is a landmark work that, along with Little Ashes and Apparatus and Hand represents Dalí’s first mature articulation of the neurotic dream-like imagery for which he is best known.

 
 

Honey is Sweeter than Blood (1926)

 
 

Aside from Parisian Surrealism and Brueghel however, the primary, overriding and determining influence on both Honey is Sweeter than Blood and Study for Honey is Sweeter than Blood was that of Dalí’s closest friend and confidant at this time, the poet Frederico Garcia Lorca. Lorca had spent the month of July with Dalí in Cadaqués and it was he who gave these works their original title of The Wood of Gadgets while also seeming to have inspired their later title writing to Dalí about the headless female corpse that appears in both paintings that, ‘the dissected woman is the most beautiful poem about blood you can create’ (Frederico Garcia Lorca, letter to Dalí quoted in Félix Fanés Salvador Dalí: The Construction of the Image 1925-1930 , London, 2007, p. 67).

As stated before, Honey is Sweeter than Blood and the study for it are thus works that mark a process of stylistic change in which there appear some elements from the previous period, such as the severed heads that reveal to us the stamp of his new classicism, and particularly the influence of Pablo Picasso (Table in front of the Sea, 1926; Still Life by Moonlight, 1926; Composition with Three Figures;  Neo-Cubist Academy, 1926) ; objects that become “pieces of apparatus” and that show Dalí’s interest in “machinism”.  We also have the initial influences of other contemporary artists such as Joan Miró, Yves Tanguy and particularly Giorgio de Chirico.

The phrase ‘honey is sweeter than blood’ is one that seems to have haunted Dalí at this time. It crops up in numerous instances in his life, its most notable appearance perhaps being in his book The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí where as Dawn Ades has pointed out, Dalí describes the solitary pleasure of masturbation as ‘sweeter than honey’ while Lorca is said to have regarded sexual intercourse as a fearful ‘jungle of blood’ (D. Ades, Dalí, The Centenary Retrospective, London, 2005, p. 90). Fear of sex and the female along with the guilt, pleasure and addiction of masturbation are constant themes running through much of Dalí’s work of this period culminating in his 1929 paintings The Lugubrious Game and The Great Masturbator. Here, in Study for Honey is Sweeter than Blood such fetishistic motifs appear to be being born on the grey sandy beach-like plain cutting across the picture plain after the mutilation of a female corpse. It is Lorca’s face too that appears in this work as a decapitated double-sided head split in two and dissecting its mysterious diagonal borderline of sea-bed/plain and sea/sky.

At the heart of Lorca’s influence on these paintings however, stands his and Dalí’s shared obsession with Saint Sebastian. Already having informed much of Dalí’s work, the poet and the painter had developed a kind of coded language of association about the Saint, both recognising a part of themselves and each other in the story of this agonised martyr. Here, the cold, geometric machine-like needles or eye tacks puncturing the skin-like surface of the plain echo the nature of Sebastian’s martyrdom, while the split head seems to indicate a notion of a one-person duality in the form of Dalí and Lorca. In the final painting Dalí’s own visage appears on the head lying near the headless female corpse, while here, the sleeping head simultaneously bordering land and sky seems to anticipate the later soft sleeping heads able to transcend different realms and realities that Dalí frequently depicted in his work of the late 1920s and early ’30s. The veins and blood vessels visible in the top half of this head are echoed elsewhere in the picture on other truncated limbs, sprouting like a forest and also in what appears to be a small shoal of red fish swimming in the sky-like sea. This predisposition towards diagrammatic tree-like veins appears, like most the elements of this painting, in different but extended form in Apparatus and Hand and are derived from Dalí’s fascination with an illustration in an advertisement for a cure for varicose veins. With their coral-like forms, they also echo the use of red coral as a symbol of Christ’s blood in much Spanish religious painting.

Continuing the pervasive theme of a painful collusion between cold hard-edged mechanical form and soft, blood giving flesh, the central image of this picture is a decapitated female corpse with truncated arms and legs pouring blood into the soil which elsewhere seems to sprout into vein-like trees. This, along with the fetishistic image of a pair of disembodied breasts, perhaps another symbol of martyrdom referring to that of Saint Agatha, is also seemingly attacked by metallic needles and shown floating in the sky, while the arms of the corpse are seemingly depicted in a dual state of growth and decay on the beach. Reminiscent of a number of ‘headless women’ created by Max Ernst at this time, the mutilation of the female nude is a clear anti-art act and symbol, but also one celebrated here as an apparent source of life-blood and creativity. Nearby and in direct contrast, lies another anti-art symbol: one of the quintessential Dalínean images of putrefaction: the rotting donkey.

Perhaps most familiar now from its appearance in Dalí and Luis Buñuel‘s shocking first feature film Le Chien andalou, the image of the rotting donkey carcass surrounded by flies was a staple of many of Dalí’s pictures in the 1920s. A symbol of horror and repulsion and of the ugliness of reality with which avant-garde artists wished to challenge the complacency and bourgeois values of the traditional society they abhorred, the rotting donkey invokes a rich seam of satire known as ‘the putrefact’, that, as Dawn Ades has pointed out, was ‘mined in numerous drawings by the group in the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid which included Dalí, Lorca and Pepin Bello who was credited with inventing the term… The origin of the ‘putrefying’ donkey itself lies in a sentimental tale by the ‘arch putrefact’ as Dalí called him, the poet Juan Ramon Jiménez (whose) Platero y Yo recounts the life and death of a beloved donkey’ (ibid, p. 92). Here, as it was to appear in numerous other Dalí works, the artist has depicted this donkey decomposing into the soil of the painting surrounded by flies – another hard and horrifying anti-artistic symbol of the dark, nightmarish side of life, not usually associated with fine art.

As Dalí was also at pains to point out in an article he wrote about these works in 1928 however, all this horror takes place not in the real world, but within the magical realm of the picture plane. ‘We can verify,’ he wrote, ‘that the decapitated figures live their perfect, organic life, they rest in the shadow of the bloodiest vegetation without getting bloodstained, and they go on stretching out naked on the sharpest, spikiest surfaces of very special marble, without risk of death’ (Salvador Dalí, ‘Nous limits de la pintura’, 1928, quoted in Feliz Fanés Salvador Dalí: The Construction of the Image 1925-1930, London, 2007, p. 67).

An Underestimated Bond

Federico García Lorca with Salvador Dalí in uniform, 1927

 
 

The “legendary friendship” of Federico García Lorca and Salvador Dalì began in 1923 when Dalí arrived at the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid to study at the Special School of Drawing at the Academy of San Fernando. The first time they met, Lorca was amazed by Dalí’s unconventional style of dress while Dalí “in turn, was captivated by Lorca” and his first impression of Lorca was of a “poetic phenomenon in its entirety and ‘in the raw’ appearing suddenly before me in flesh and blood”. Despite their antithetical personalities (Dalí was very shy while Lorca was “a font of laughter and music”) and frequent disagreements about art and literature, Dalí and Lorca became fast friends and Lorca helped Dalí integrate into social life at the Resi.

 
 

Portraits of Dalí by Lorca, (from 1925 to 1927)

 
 

Triple Portrait of Lorca, Salvador Dalí, 1924

 
 

Neo-Cubist Academy (Composition with Three Figures), Salvador Dalí, 1926

 
 

From 1925 to 1927 the relationship between Dalí and Lorca grew as their admiration for one another and their influence over each other’s work intensified. Lorca fell in love with Cadaqués, a coastal village just north of Barcelona, where he went to stay over Easter holiday in 1925 with Dalí and his family in their summer home there. There, they spent their time walking through town, laughing with Ana María, Dalí’s beautiful sister, wandering the beach and watching each other work.

 
 

El Beso (The Kiss), drawing by Lorca, 1927

 
 

Lorca and Dali’s frienship was something more than that, “an erotic, tragic love, out of the fact of not being able to share it,” the painter himself would explain in 1986, in a letter to the editor published in EL PAÍS and meant for the Lorca historian Ian Gibson, whom he accused of underestimating his bond with the poet, “as though it had simply been a sugary sweet romantic novel.”

The relationship between both geniuses lasted, with all its ups and downs, from 1923 to 1936 (the year of Lorca’s execution at the onset of the Spanish Civil War). Besides the artistic partnership, the link gave rise to an intense exchange of letters that can now be read entirely, for the first time, in Querido Salvador, Querido Lorquito, a compilation by the journalist Víctor Fernández.

 
 

Portrait of Luis Buñuel, Salvador Dalí, 1924

 
 

The gap left behind was filled by Luis Buñuel, who was jealous in his own way and “acted as a sapper in that relationship.” The filmmaker, who until then had had little intellectual and popular impact, would end up writing the script of Un chien andalou with Dalí. Lorca, who was from Andalusia, always felt the title was a reference to himself. Nevertheless, after Lorca’s death, he began to reappear in Dalí’s drawings and paintings.

 
 

Invisible Afghan with the Apparition on the Beach of the Face of Garcia Lorca in the Form of a Fruit Dish with Three Figs, 1938

 
 

When Gala died in 1982, Dalí regressed mentally to his student days in Madrid, where he first met Lorca and Buñuel in 1923. In the end, when he was refusing to eat and was down to 34 kilograms, one of the nurses who cared for him said that in all the time he was in her care, she only understood one sentence that he said: “My friend Lorca.”

Ode to Salvador Dalí

Meditative Rose, Salvador Dalí, 1958

 
 

A rose in the high garden you desire.
A wheel in the pure syntax of steel.
The mountain stripped bare of Impressionist fog,
The grays watching over the last balustrades.

The modern painters in their white ateliers
clip the square root’s sterilized flower.
In the waters of the Seine a marble iceberg
chills the windows and scatters the ivy.

Man treads firmly on the cobbled streets.
Crystals hide from the magic of reflections.
The Government has closed the perfume stores.
The machine perpetuates its binary beat.

An absence of forests and screens and brows
roams across the roofs of the old houses.
The air polishes its prism on the sea
and the horizon rises like a great aqueduct.

Soldiers who know no wine and no penumbra
behead the sirens on the seas of lead.
Night, black statue of prudence, holds
the moon’s round mirror in her hand.

A desire for forms and limits overwhelms us.
Here comes the man who sees with a yellow ruler.
Venus is a white still life
and the butterfly collectors run away.

*

 
 

Rose (Rosa Papillonacea), Salvador Dalí, 1968

 
 

Cadaqués, at the fulcrum of water and hill,
lifts flights of stairs and hides seashells.
Wooden flutes pacify the air.
An ancient woodland god gives the children fruit.

Her fishermen sleep dreamless on the sand.
On the high sea a rose is their compass.
The horizon, virgin of wounded handkerchiefs,
links the great crystals of fish and moon.

A hard diadem of white brigantines
encircles bitter foreheads and hair of sand.
The sirens convince, but they don’t beguile,
and they come if we show a glass of fresh water.

*

 
 

Dalí and García Lorca

 
 

Oh Salvador Dalí, of the olive-colored voice!
I do not praise your halting adolescent brush
or your pigments that flirt with the pigment of your times,
but I laud your longing for eternity with limits.

Sanitary soul, you live upon new marble.
You run from the dark jungle of improbable forms.
Your fancy reaches only as far as your hands,
and you enjoy the sonnet of the sea in your window.

The world is dull penumbra and disorder
in the foreground where man is found.
But now the stars, concealing landscapes,
reveal the perfect schema of their courses.

The current of time pools and gains order
in the numbered forms of century after century.
And conquered Death takes refuge trembling
in the tight circle of the present instant.

When you take up your palette, a bullet hole in its wing,
you call on the light that brings the olive tree to life.
The broad light of Minerva, builder of scaffolds,
where there is no room for dream or its hazy flower.

You call on the old light that stays on the brow,
not descending to the mouth or the heart of man.
A light feared by the loving vines of Bacchus
and the chaotic force of curving water.

You do well when you post warning flags
along the dark limit that shines in the night.
As a painter, you refuse to have your forms softened
by the shifting cotton of an unexpected cloud.

The fish in the fishbowl and the bird in the cage.
You refuse to invent them in the sea or the air.
You stylize or copy once you have seen
their small, agile bodies with your honest eyes.

You love a matter definite and exact,
where the toadstool cannot pitch its camp.
You love the architecture that builds on the absent
and admit the flag simply as a joke.

The steel compass tells its short, elastic verse.
Unknown clouds rise to deny the sphere exists.
The straight line tells of its upward struggle
and the learned crystals sing their geometries.

 
 

The Enigma of the Rose, Salvador Dalí, 1976

 
 

But also the rose of the garden where you live.
Always the rose, always, our north and south!
Calm and ingathered like an eyeless statue,
not knowing the buried struggle it provokes.

Pure rose, clean of artifice and rough sketches,
opening for us the slender wings of the smile.
(Pinned butterfly that ponders its flight.)
Rose of balance, with no self-inflicted pains.
Always the rose!

*

Oh Salvador Dali, of the olive-colored voice!
I speak of what your person and your paintings tell me.
I do not praise your halting adolescent brush,
but I sing the steady aim of your arrows.

I sing your fair struggle of Catalan lights,
your love of what might be made clear.
I sing your astronomical and tender heart,
a never-wounded deck of French cards.

I sing your restless longing for the statue,
your fear of the feelings that await you in the street.
I sing the small sea siren who sings to you,
riding her bicycle of corals and conches.

But above all I sing a common thought
that joins us in the dark and golden hours.
The light that blinds our eyes is not art.
Rather it is love, friendship, crossed swords.

Not the picture you patiently trace,
but the breast of Theresa, she of sleepless skin,
the tight-wound curls of Mathilde the ungrateful,
our friendship, painted bright as a game board.

May fingerprints of blood on gold
streak the heart of eternal Catalunya.
May stars like falconless fists shine on you,
while your painting and your life break into flower.

 
 

Dalí photographed by Jean Dieuzaide, 1953

 
 

Don’t watch the water clock with its membraned wings
or the hard scythe of the allegory.
Always in the air, dress and undress your brush
before the sea peopled with sailors and ships.

Federico García Lorca

 
 

The poem was first published in the original Spanish in April 1926 in the Revista de Occidente; a luxury edition to be published by Emilio Prados was planned for 1927 but never appeared.

‘The Ode constitutes not only a fervent affirmation of Lorca’s friendship with Dalí but an appraisal of contemporary painting as represented in Spain by his friend. Lorca admired in Dali’s work – as in that of his cubist predecessors – its symmetry, objectivity and lack of sentimentality, its flight from both outmoded realism and the “impressionist mist”… The Ode to Salvador Dalí is perhaps the finest paean to friendship ever written in Spanish, and the fact that it appeared in one of the most important journals in Europe filled the painter with pride, as he recalled in 1980. Nor did the poem fail to attract the attention of the critics…’ (Ian Gibson, Federico García Lorca, 1989, p. 159-162).

Venus’ Sterile Efforts and Little Ashes

“Remember me when you are at the beach and above all when you paint crackling things and little ashes. Oh my little ashes! Put my name in the picture so that my name will serve for something in the world.”

Lines from a letter written by García Lorca to Salvador Dalí in July 1927. The entire letter and others can be found in Sebastian’s ArrowsLetters and Mementos of Salvador Dalí and Federico García Lorca (2005), edited by Christopher Maurer.

 
 

Cenicitas (Little Ashes), Salvador Dalí, 1927.

It was originally called The Birth of Venus, before being changed to Sterile Efforts and then finally Cenicitas. Dalí painted this while he was in military service, it’s a collection of memories. Regarding the flies in the picture, he said: “…the doses of action that God uses to indicate men the way to one of the most intricate laws of the universe”

 
 

Before the movie Little Ashes (Paul Morrison, 2008) begins, there is an opening caption of that reads the lines mentioned above.

Some Seaside Medicine

“You are a Christian storm and you are in need of some of my paganism […] I will go get you and give you some seaside medicine. It will be winter and we will light a fire. The poor beasts will be trembling with the cold. You will recall that you are an inventor of marvelous things and we will live together with a portrait machine…”

Salvador Dalí wrote these passionate lines in the summer of 1928 to his close friend Federico García Lorca.