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Distributed for Museum Tusculanum Press

Nicolas Calas and the Challenge of Surrealism

With ties to Greece, France, and the United States, Nicolas Calas was a truly international poet, critic, and polemicist writing at the height of surrealism. Emerging on the scene in a vital period of Greek literary history in the early 1930s, he would begin his career as an important but little-known forerunner to that country’s surrealism movement—and he would end it as an established poet and art critic in New York, known in the pages of the Village Voice, Art International, and Artforum, among others places. In this book, Lena Hoff offers the first intellectual biography of this important figure, one who embodied the restlessness that characterizes twentieth century arts and letters.

Calas was an early innovator in Greece, fusing avant-garde poetics with Trotskyism and Freudo-Marxist principles. However, growing weary of his isolation and the relatively modest support he found in his native country, he moved to Paris in the mid-1930s, where he quickly gained a seat in the surrealist circle surrounding André Breton. On the eve of World War II, he then became one of the first surrealists to settle in New York, helping pave the way for the likes of Breton, Max Ernst, and Yves Tanguy. The story of a highly enigmatic poet and intellectual who moved freely between surrealism, futurism, and satire—and who put forward challenging ideas in his essays, reviews, and translations—this book also sheds new light on many of the avant-garde’s most trenchant artistic advances.  

450 pages | 8 color plates, 23 halftones | 6 1/2 x 9 1/2 | © 2014

Art: Art Criticism

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Table of Contents



Chapter One: M. Spieros and the Formulation of a New Cultural Politics of the Left

The Formative Years

Calas and Theotokas: Friends and Ideological Opponents

Towards a Definition of Proletarian Art

Literature and Revolution: The Influence of Trotsky

Freudo-Marxism and the Arts

Chapter Two: Nikitas Randos: Avant-Garde Poet and Translator

Challenging the Poetics of Greekness

Socialism and the Avant-Garde: Calas and Mayakovsky

The Beginning of a Surrealist Adventure

The Ideology of Translation

Chapter Three: The French Interlude

Foyers d’incendie and FIARI: Surrealism, Trotsky, Art and the Revolution

Foyers d’incendie: A Revolutionary Ethic of Desire

Foyers d’incendie: On Homosexual Fascism and Revolutionary Sadism

Confounding the Wise: The French Poems

Chapter Four: World War II and Surrealism

Nazism and the Hitler Myth

Definitions of Freedom and Responsibility

The New Prometheus

Towards a Third Surrealist Manifesto

Surrealism and a View through the Eyes of the Poet

Profanation: A Chess Game with André Breton

Chapter Five: The New Left and Art Criticism

Art Polemics and a Critique of a Cultural Phenomena

Anti-Art and Surrealism

Surrealism and the Making of History

Why Not Pop Art?

Chapter Six: Nikitas Randos Street: From New York to Athens and Back Again

The Wicked and the Profane: Satirical Poems

A Pyrotechnic of Multiple Puns: Decoding the Political Satires

A Poetry of Poetics in a Garden of Letters

Memory and Otherness: The Revelations of a Heretic and Prodigal Son

Conclusion: The Legacy of a Poet, Diagnostician and Polemicist

Appendix 1: The Storm at Dawn

Appendix 2: Notes on Fidelity

Appendix 3: Art at the Crossroads

Appendix 4: The Crisis in Art

Appendix 5: A Psychoanalyst’s Escape from Reality

Appendix 6: “Stop Chanting Your Dreams” (Letter to Franklin Rosemont’s Surrealist Group in Chicago)

Appendix 7: Burn Jerusalem!



Index of Greek Titles

General Index

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