Surreal Eyes-wk 11

Modernist writing, by design or by subconscious impulse, includes the body as a frequent feature. In previous journals, there was a focus on hands, usually referred to by their color and size (here in this issue, actually, one instance refers to “broad hands, palms black with pitch and hairy backs” (24)). In transition 1927, the surrealist literary journal, it is not hands as much (although they are mentioned 31 times) but eyes that feature—or rather doesn’t feature. In this one issue, eyes are brought up 57 times. Eyes reveal interiority. For instance, eyes “round and black…they had realized the true character of this mild demagogue” (37); eyes that “filled with tears and highlights, and waves of strange emotion had rocked her and transported her from one to another” (40); “their eyes pierce the night, greedily and restlessly” (46); “eyes lie at a distance, and the pupil is misty, immovably grey” (70). In these examples, eyes themselves drive the perception of character, which, in turn, drives the action out of reaction. Art, too, betrays itself of the subconscious anxiety about eyes in avoiding them. Take, for example, the pieces on page 111 and 112. On 111, Jeunes Filles en des Belles Poses, or young girls in beautiful poses, what we see are the backs of two young girls, their legs, butts, and backs, but we do not see their faces. One of them doesn’t even have a head. The man, who appears either to be praising them or soon to slap an ass with an upraised hand, is drawn in a different form—a skeleton sketch rather than a true likeness—has a jawline, a left arm upright like the girls, and a mouth, but his eyes fade into nothingness. In “Painting,” on page 112, the woman in the painting, other than a somewhat oddly-shaped hand, could almost be described as normal, other than the giant fish covering her face. The animals on the triangle beside her are also eyeless, except for one lion who faces away and has one black void for an eye. Although surrealism is an attempt at the subconscious mind, the sides of the brain still function within their roles. Language and writing process through the left side of the brain, whereas painting would process through the creative right side of the brain. What this suggests is that the left side of the brain that can write about eyes and describe them carefully enough to communicate, while the right side of the mind may be avoidant of eyes and, in that avoidance, communicate similar ideas that the left does with words. Does not a woman with a fish over her suggest a woman whose “eyes lie at a distance” (112; 46).