From Book 1: Men versus Women, Part One

            “You’re all right,” Desnos said. “You need something in your stomach, that’s all.” He turned and raised a finger to signal a waiter while I shriveled in embarrassment. When the plate of bread and cheese was set before me I picked up a hunk of bread and held it to my mouth, chewing automatically as Desnos teased, “The point is to be conscious in your unconsciousness, not to pass out.”

            “Yes,” put in Justine. “To be conscious in one’s unconsciousness, to be sane in one’s insanity, and to be a penis in a vagina,” she concluded baldly, “is the Surrealist adventure!” Everyone, even Artaud, laughed at this. Shaking his head at her, Desnos thumped me on the back again because I was trying to exhale my bread. Artaud nodded emphatically and Desnos shook his head harder.

            “She’s captured it,” Artaud asserted.

            “Don’t judge Surrealism only by what Breton says!” Desnos told Justine, but he couldn’t hide his smile. “He doesn’t express himself well. He truly believes women should be free.”

            “Yes, but free to do what?” Artaud countered. There was more giggling, but he didn’t join in it.

            “Breton preaches absolute sexual freedom—no inhibitions,” Desnos replied quietly, “but in reality he devotes himself to his wife. One woman—that’s the only way to self-knowledge. I am the same.”

            “You? You’re the same? You are in love with a celebrity!” Roger sneered.

            “So what?”

            Justine stole a piece of cheese from my plate. “That sounds chivalric, Robert, and not at all what I heard from Breton last night.”

            Desnos slopped whiskey into his glass again. “Maybe, but people—chivalry, I like that—people misunderstand what we Surrealists mean by love. They think it’s the same old sentiment, but it’s not. It’s alchemy. Union with the not-self, the other self inside, and outside… I like the idea of knights though, Justine. Without God and the priests and the vow of chastity, et cetera.”

            “Well, since you are devoted only to this singer, and since we all know that you are not sleeping with her, are you celibate, or not?” Roger persisted, but Desnos only smiled at him.

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