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CREVEL, René

[Recueil de six manuscrits autographes]. Bobards et fariboles ; Le Cygne de Pau ou Fifi la curette ; Mysticisme, prière et réalisme catholique ; La Mysticité quotidienne [de Max Jacob] ; La Grande Mannequin cherche et trouve sa peau ; La Dame au cou nu

1922

SIX BEAUTIFUL AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT TEXTS BY RENÉ CREVEL, OF WHICH FIVE ARE SIGNED.

STRIKING PHOTOGRAPHIC BINDING BY MERCHER : A GENUINE WORK OF ART

6 autograph manuscripts of which 5 are SIGNED “René Crevel”, totaling 18 pages ½ 4to and folio

1. Bobards et fariboles. [Septembre 1930].
SIGNED AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT : numerous additions and corrections, and a passage struck out at the top, black ink, 2 folio pages (275 x 210mm)

2. Le Cygne de Pau ou Fifi la curette. [s.d.]
AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT : strike outs, corrections, additions and underlinings, black ink, 2 folio pages (275 x 210mm)

3. Mysticisme, prière et réalisme catholique. [1931].
SIGNED AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT, strike outs and corrections, black ink, 3 folio pages (265 x 207mm)

4. La Mysticité quotidienne [de Max Jacob]. [1923].
SIGNED AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT : a few strike outs and corrections, purple ink, 2 pages ½ large folio (310 x 200mm)

5. La Grande Mannequin cherche et trouve sa peau. [May 1934].
SIGNED AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT having served for the printing : a few strike-outs, additions and corrections and typographer marks, blue ink, 1 folio page with a large folding paste-on (420 x 205mm) and 3 4to pages (210 x 210mm)

6. La Dame au cou nu. 30 novembre 1922. SIGNED AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT : purple ink, small corrections and strike-outs, 5 folio pages (310 x 205mm)

PHOTOGRAPHIC BINDING SIGNED BY HENRI MERCHER AND DATED 1966. Sides in articulated plexiglass with two gold-stamped leaves, ON THE FIRST SIDE : LARGE PORTRAIT OF RENÉ CREVEL BY MAN RAY PRINTED ON A GOLD BACKGROUND, black morocco Bradel spine, leaves mounted on black guards. Slipcase
PROVENANCE : Jean-Paul Kahn (Paris, November 7, 2019, lot n° 99)

During the 1960s and 1970s, the binder Henri Mercher explored new bindings techniques. He is famous for the remarkable invention of his articulated plexiglass sides. Taking inspiration from the photographic bindings of Paul Bonet, Henri Mercher also produced a handful of bindings with the sides covered in gold leaf and presenting on the upper side, a photograph printed on gold leaf. The spectacle was guaranteed. Today we know of only three such bindings : one on Résurrection des Mannequins (Paris, Jean Petithory, 1966), the other on a collection of printed pamphlets concerning L’Âge d’or from the former collection of Paul Destribats (Paris, July 4, 2019, lot 295), and this one, giving an admirable box to the manuscript works of René Crevel thanks to a re-printing of the famous photographic portrait of the writer by Man Ray in 1922.

This collection offers four articles and two short texts in prose, embracing the too-short literary and critical career of René Crevel (1900-1935). The texts were published in a magazine or in the Feuilles éparses collection.

Among the first members of the surrealist group, according to André Breton, René Crevel (1900-1935) was “one whose emotions and reactions had been characteristic of our common state of mind”. This “trembling being” (Philippe Soupault) went through life as a rebel and was one of the first to understand the importance of psychoanalysis. His almost-filial relationship with Breton was however, tainted with conflicts and misunderstanding. An eternal rebel with fragile health, Crevel remains an unclassifiable figure. Philippe Soupault also wrote “born rebellious like others are born with blue eyes”.

His baroque style and caustic thoughts which the texts bear the mark of here, have but little equivalent. “Crevel, wrote André Breton in 1952 in his Entretiens, with that adolescent gaze that we see in some photographs, the seduction that he exercises, the fears and bravado so quick to awaken in him… through all of this, it is anxiety that dominates. He is incidentally psychologically very complex, confounded in a sort of frenzy which possesses him by his love of the 18th century and particularly of Diderot.”

1. Bobards et fariboles. [September 1930]

This virulent political article published in Le Surréalisme au service de la Révolution (n° 2, October 1930) was inspired by the presentation of the legion of honor to “one of these clerics-killers who gave absolution to the enemy, under their orders, murdered”. Crevel’s anti-clericalism and his disdain for an accomplice-press bursts through here with brio : “Et nos pisse-lignes de louer la charité chrétienne de ce monsieur (aujourd’hui évêque) si prompt à sauter de la mitrailleuse au goupillon. Crevel criticized the pan European ethnocentric movement of Comte de Koudenhove who later inspired the Christian democracy of the 1950s and colonization : “Et quelle jolie carte du monde nous allons avoir grâce à Paneuropa. L'Europe sera rose et ce rose s'étendra aux meilleurs morceaux d'Asie, d'Afrique.” Always a revolutionary, he opposed racism :

“Toute classification humaine, et celle surtout qui s’autorise du prisme des peaux, n’a jamais été, jusqu’à ce jour, que prétexte aux plus sinistres abus de confiance, et si le drapeau de la Révolution déjà claque noir sur ciel exsangue, c’est que bientôt le nègre exaspéré par la loi du lynch et tant d’iniquités entrera dans la mêlée, sans pitié pour la féodalité colonisatrice et missionnaire des visages pâles, cœurs pâles et tons incolores qui n’ont quand même pas réussi à dépigmenter le coloré.”

2. Le Cygne de Pau ou Fifi la curette. No place or date.

This criticism of “Scribouilleurs de la rubrique poésie” was published for the first time by Louis Broder in 1965 in the Feuilles éparses collection. With his particular lyricism made of collisions and exhilaration, Crevel expresses his taste for a strong literature. He attacks Mallarmé’s rose-tinted poetics, a bland poetry which repulses him for which even sex has no smell and life no flavor.

“des narines un peu subtiles (les miennes, pardi…) n’en reconnaissent pas moins cette bonne vieille odeur littéraire de couille en papier mâché, de foutre à l’encre (pas encore Waterman), de pubis hérissé de plumes Sergent-Major. Aux angles de cette géométrie givrée, nul risque de se blesser. L’écume inconnue et les flots, les grands trous bleus que font méchamment les oiseaux dans le ciel ne constituent ni des tentations, ni des menaces bien dangereuses.”

3. Mysticisme, prière et réalisme catholique. [1931].

This unpublished text during Crevel’s lifetime was also published for the first time by Louis Broder in the Feuilles éparses in which he denounces Claudel’s Catholic recovery of Rimbaud. It is undoubtedly the most subtle and profound text of the collection. In it, Crevel boasts of a metaphysics of brilliance, opposed to Christian syncretism and its dialectical art of uniting the opposites, the earth and the sky. He denounces “the mid term of medieval syllogism”, necessary to all syntheses, like a fog of words. Rimbaud only here for a moment in a fundamental denunciation of the whole :

“On s’arrange avec la vie terrestre, avec la vie future. On fait d’une pierre deux coups. On travaille, on coupe la poire en deux. On garde pour plus tard la belle moitié, et la prévoyance humaine invente l’éternité (…) Essayer de voir ce qui se cache derrière le bruit des mots, s’en prendre à l’arbre de la connaissance, voilà ce que le catéchisme nous dit qu’il n’aura jamais sa rémission.”

4. La Mysticité quotidienne [de Max Jacob]. [1923]

This magnificent text was published in in November 1923 in the special issue of the magazine Le Disque vert devoted to Max Jacob. René Crevel’s article boasts of a daily mysticity uniquely made of the inquietas of the Anciens. “Pour que l’homme nous intéresse sous le masque, il faut que se devine un tourment. Je ne sais quelle définition les dictionnaires proposent de la mysticité ; pourquoi ne point convenir que de ce nom se baptise l’état même d’inquiétude”. Crevel likes Max Jacob’s colorful mysticism, made of grace and dereliction : “La Grand messe du dimanche se joue à l’orchestre du cinéma (…) dans la richesse multiple et décevante, celui qui s’écrie “Max est pécheur, Max est un homme” se crucifie chaque jour, aux côtés du Maître, bon larron mais vrai bon larron, petit neveu du Galiléen par lui tant aimé”

5. La Grande Mannequin cherche et trouve sa peau. [1934]

This article, published in Minotaure in May 1934, marks the retreat of political engagement and the simultaneous renewal of its poetic reverie for René Crevel the Grande Mannequin admired in the windows does not trivially represent woman. In Crevel’s exploded lyrism, the Grande Mannequin is revealed as the image of poetry itself, or rather a metaphor of the analogy (in the Thomist sense) by which man makes the unreal perceptible : “du mannequin et de son étoffe, de l’étoffe et du mannequin, naîtra une nouvelle, double et totale réalité. Ce sera la synthèse, le couple, le ruissellement d’un chant d’amour”.

And as Jean-Michel Devesa perceived, the Grande Mannequin is as much poetry as death : “Because they expect a lot from her, men are awkward and shy with the Grande Mannequin (…) To seduce her, we try pompous, yet pompous is always macabre”. Poetry and death are linked, one is the double of the other, from where the conclusion : “Already, she has turned her back on her double and, on the threshold of the night, goes off, flies off. Ribbon antennas will lead her to the most secret dream of man”.

6. La Dame au cou nu. [Signed :] René Crevel. November 30, 1922

This text, articulated around a news item, is as autobiographical as it is oneiric. It was published in Le Disque vert (nos 4-6, 1923). Some elements, notably the figure of the lady with a naked neck, would find themselves in the first chapter of the novel Mon corps et moi (1925). Crevel’s writing is first a struggle against memory which he will always accuse of parasitizing the sensation in the past, in remembering : “[les hommes] ne triomphent point de la mort mais, par la plus inexorable facilité, chaque transsubstantiation qu’ils essaient, au lieu de prolonger leur passé, tue leur présent” (Mon corps et moi). If the biographical partially underlies the writing, it surrenders also to the involuntary chains of images and arbitrary recreations.

René Crevel often had these chimeras, these notorious women, touched by crime and violent death, attractive witches, bearers of a wonderful freedom as would be this lady with the naked neck :

“J’aime les gens qui ont deux têtes sur les photographies d’amateur après un déjeuner à La Varenne, les notaires qui engendrent des poètes ou des homosexuels, Ingres qui accorde son violon et la campagne à Saint-Cloud.
Mais j’aime mieux la dame au cou nu.
Je suis né le 10 août 1900.
Durant mon enfance, les femmes ne montraient leur gorge que pour aller au bal. Dans la première moitié de l’année 1914, une citoyenne de Genève m’annonça les cataclysmes qui devaient assourdir mon adolescence, à cause de l’échancrure des corsages sur la Côte d’Azur (…) La dame au cou nu devança de plusieurs années les élégantes de 1914. Aussi eut-elle mauvaise réputation et vaut-il mieux afin de ne pas susciter à nouveau les polémiques, taire son nom.
On l’accusait d’avoir tué son mari et sa mère, et pour elle nous achetions les journaux en cachette”…

REFERENCES : Jean-Michel Devesa, René Crevel ou l’Esprit contre la raison. Actes du colloque de Bordeaux, 2000, et, du même auteur, René Crevel et le roman, Amsterdam, 1993, p. 162 ; Michel Carassou, “René Crevel entre la mère et la putain”, Obliques, n° 14-15, “La Femme surréaliste”, p. 25