The years of early 1920's was a time when Europe was in fervent. Europe was ripe for change. In the visual arts and in film, there was a movement called surrealism, which developed from the earlier dadaism, in which artists tried to express the dislocation of the world after the First World War by playing with images which no longer bore any logical connection and where time was dislocated, and where the appearance of objects no longer follow the logic of realism and perspective dominant since the Renaissance. Artists like Giorgio de Chirico, Max Ernst, Joan Miró, Yves Tanguy, Salvador Dali, Luis Buñuel, René Margritte, Marcel Lecomte, André Souris, Alberto Giacometti etc. were all surrealists.
This movement could not but affect the literary scene as well. In France, there was a raging movement of literary surrealism, centred on the figure of André Breton who issued a Surrealist Manifesto in 1924, who emphasized that that it was a revolution. One of the chief figures of this literary surrealism was a poet called Robert Desno (1900-1945). He experimented with what has been called automatic writing. In this type of writing, the poet deliberately put himself into a state of trance and then allow whatever images and writings from his subconscious to emerge freely. Using this method, Desno produced a mantra like, dream-like , incantaory poem about his love for a lady. The following is an example of such a poem.
J' ai tant révé de toi
J' ai tant révé de toi que tu perds ta réalité.
Est-il encore temps d'atteindre ce corps vivant et de baiser sur cette bouche la naissance de la voix qui m'est chère?
J' ai tant révé de toi que mes bras habitués en etreignant ton ombre à se croiser sur ma poitrine ne se plieraient pas au contour de ton corps, peut-être.
Et que, devant l'apparence réele de ce qui me hante et me gouverne depuis des jours et des années, je deviendrais une ombre sans doute.
O balance sentimentales.
J' ai tant révé de toi qu'íl nést plus temps sans doute que je m'éveille. Je dors debout, le corps exposé à toutes les apparences de la vie et de l'amour et toi, la seule qui compte aujourd'hui pour moi, je pourrais moins toucher ton front et tes lèvres que les premières lèvres et premier front venu.
J' ai tant révé de toi , tant marché, parlé, couché avec ton fantôme parmi les fantômes et plus ombre cent fois que l'ombre qui se promène et se promènera allègerement sur le cadran solaire de ta vie.
I've dreamt so much of you
I've dreamt of you so much that you are losing your reality.
Is there still time to reach that living body and to kiss that mouth giving rise to that voice dear to me.
I've dreamt of you so much that my arms got used to embracing your shadow across my chest that perhaps they would no longer hug the contour of your body.
And before the real appearance of that which shames and rules over me for days and years, I would become an undoubted shadow.
Oh balance of sentiments.
I've dreamt of you so much that there is doubtless no more time to wake up. I sleep standing, my body exposed to all the appearance of life and love and you, the only one which matters for me today that I could touch your face and your lips even less than the first lips and the first face that come.
I've dreamt so much of you, walked so much, talked so much, slept with your ghost so much that there is nothing left for me but to be a ghost amidst the ghosts and ten times more a shadow than the shadow which loiters and will loiter lightly over the sundial of you life.
In this poem, we find a structure which repeats itself but with slight modification. The sound too resonates with the sound of "an" in words like the following: "tant", "atteindre" , "naissance", "etreignant", "devant", "apparence" ,"hante", "fantome", "balance" , "sans" and "cadran" etc.
A second feature of the poem is that its images suggest a blurring of the boundaries between reality and appearance, between dream and facts. Throughout the poem, the poet emphasizes that the fact that he thinks so much of his lover, apparently unilaterally, that he has lost touch with reality. In fact he has gotten so used to thinking about her in his daydream (he says he sleeps standing up) that he can no longer compete with his real lover. He dreams of holding her, kissing her, touching her for so long that he has lost all ability to act in the real world, so much that through such dreaming, he himself has become a phantom and as he says, a phantom who walks around the sundial (an image of the lady he loves) that he is more of a shadow than the real shadow which circles her. He has become a character in his own dream and fantasy! He lived life to the full, delighting in his ability to create through sounds and words in his hypnotic and incantation-like poems.