Rearranging Surreality: Dada and Surrealism in Budapest

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(Hungarian National Gallery, 9 July – 5 October 2014)

Only a tiny number of books by André Breton have been translated into Hungarian so far (Nadja, Poisson soluble, Les champs magnétiques), and they had no real impact on Hungarian culture. Ironically, this fact can be proved also by the generous catalogue of the most important Surrealist overview to date in this country: Dada and Surrealism / Rearranged Reality. In the Hungarian text of the catalogue, Les champs magnétiques is translated as Mágneses terek several times, while the existing translation of the volume was published as A mágneses mezők. Breton is not a recurrent point of reference in Hungarian culture, although painters like Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst or René Magritte – major presences also in this catalogue — are of course well-known by the Hungarian public.

While the reception of Surrealism in Hungary still lacks precision and information, the representative exhibition of the National Gallery, organized in partnership with The Israel Museum of Jerusalem is a very important step in this direction, precisely because of its “introductory” character, that is to be felt in the selection of the exhibited works (in several cases no more than 2-3, but quite representative works by artists like, most importantly, Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, also Joan Miró, Max Ernst, Salvador Dalí, René Magritte, Hans Arp, André Masson, Roberto Matta, Victor Brauner, Wilfredo Lam, and with the participation of Giorgio de Chirico, Paul Delvaux, Leonora Carrington, Dorothea Tanning, Marcel Jean and others), but also in the keywords that are used for the arrangement of the exhibition.

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Mal d’ombre

The “sinister name” Malombra has a long story in European culture. In 1881, Antonio Fogazzaro published the novel Malombra. As a recent article points out, the novel is “a perhaps unique example of an Italian novel of the period whose inspiration comes primarily from the English Victorian novel and the late gothic”.[1] References in other texts by Fogazzaro include authors like Horace Walpole, Ann Radcliffe, Wilkie Collins, Edgar Allan Poe and books like Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Malombra was a success and was soon translated into English and published also in the UK (1896) and the US (1907). In 1942, Mario Soldati’s movie Malombra was released (after a first adaptation in 1917, made by Carmine Gallone). In 1947, the Romanian Surrealist Group (Gherasim Luca, Gellu Naum, Paul Păun, Virgil Teodorescu, Trost) published the collective text written in French, Eloge de Malombra – Cerne de l’amour absolu (Malombra, aura of absolute love), inspired by the film – as they called it: “the involuntarily surrealist film Malombra”. The story could go on with two more Italian films called Malombra (1974, 1984), but let’s stop here and consider instead the reasons of the surrealists’ fascination with the movie.

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