Ideas Have No Smell: Three Belgian Surrealist Booklets

Ideas Have No Smell: Three Belgian Surrealist Booklets

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Authors: Paul Colinet, Paul Nougé, and Louis Scutenaire

Editor and Translator: M. Kasper

Publisher: Ugly Duckling Presse (2018)

The Belgian surrealist movement, like its contemporary French cousin, included both visual artists―René Magritte most famously―and writers, who were also its theorists. They shared with the Parisians a fierce commitment to personal, political and aesthetic liberty, and to humor, surprise and transgression as artistic strategies, but they parted company when it came to the unconscious and the occult.

Ideas Have No Smell gathers exemplary works by three literary lights of Belgian surrealism: Transfigured Publicity, a visual text of early concrete poetry by poet and photographer Paul Nougé (1895–1967), the apostle of appropriation; the whimsical, hand-drawn artist's book Abstractive Treatise on Obeuse by Paul Colinet (1898–1957); and For Balthazar, a collection of aphorisms and observations by the ever skeptical author, lawyer and anarchist Louis Scutenaire (1905–87).

In addition to the booklets presented in a facsimile-style translation by M. Kasper, this letterpressed slipcase includes an introduction by scholar Mary Ann Caws and a poster of an anonymously handwritten panneau of Nougé's visual poems, possibly coauthored with Magritte and previously reproduced only in Marcel Mariën's documentary history, L'Activité surréaliste en Belgique.

Box set of three booklets and fold-out poster.

"'On a deux coquilles mais on n’a qu’un coeur' ('You’ve got two balls but only one heart'). The three Belgian Surrealists—Paul Nougé, Paul Colinet, and Louis Scutenaire—included in this delightful sampler represent a movement much too little known in the English-speaking world. Belgian 'Surrealism'—as the art of Magritte testifies—differed considerably from its more doctrinaire and theoretical French counterpart: its poets carry on the experiments with parole in libertà of the Italian Futurists (Nougé), the word play of Zurich Dada (Colinet), and especially the aphoristic enigmas of Tristan Tzara and Hugo Ball (Scutenaire); all three poets use appropriation in ways that anticipate current conceptualist writing. This edition, with its excellent translations, is a real treasure trove."

–Marjorie Perloff

"This lovingly assembled and crafted triptych offers the perfect aperitif for the rich meal of Belgian Surrealist writing waiting to be discovered in English translation."

–Marc Lowenthal

"The Belgian Surrealists wrote a sparkling minor literature in the shadow of the Parisian grand-standers. They were more radical, rational, and imbued with the wit, folly and brevity of everyday life. They are useful and useable ancestors to have for the poetry of the age of Twitter and Instagram. This is a delightful sampler of three offbeat virtuosos."

–McKenzie Wark