Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

09 July 2010


One of the coolest things I've read so far on my comp lists is the book 4 Dada Suicides, which is a weird little text, to be honest. It is a collection compiled by a couple of different people, so it has an odd structure. The ostensible authors are four gentlemen—Arthur Cravan, Jacques Rigaut, Julien Torma, and Jacques Vaché—who are all dead, and in fact, who specifically intended not to leave a legacy.

As I said, it is an odd text. So the book is divided into four sections, each section concerns one of the above men. Each section has a biographical sketch of some kind, followed by original texts by the authors themselves, and finished with a testimony of some kind from a contemporary of the man. Some of the testimonies are sparse indeed. Others are written by famous people. (Vaché's is written by his sweet sweet bestie, André Breton, for example, and Cravan's is written by Gabrielle Buffet-Picabia.)

Before reading this book I knew a bit about Jacques Rigaut and a bit more about Arthur Cravan (who was, after all, Oscar Wilde's nephew), but my discovery in 4 Dada Suicides was Julien Torma. I knew his biographical details before the book, but I guess I hadn't read enough of his writing to fall in love with him before. He is astounding! Absolutely wonderful. I find him courageous and stunning and rather unforgiving; perilous, scary, a bit merciless, even.

He has a rather voluminous collection of short sentences or paragraphs called Euphorisms, and this book is filled with extraordinary insights and emptinesses. Torma was a nihilist, an incredible cynic, but also cynicism's opposite (and nihilism's opposite?). In this book, almost everything is simultaneously its own opposite.

At any rate, here are some of his euphorisms. Some are very short, some are a bit longer. Take them for what they are. It seems to me that Torma meant them as musings, questions, and nothing more:

Thought involves a little charlatanism. / It is not natural to think: one must create a veritable stage-setting out of oneself and things, not to mention the inevitable artificial device of reasoning ... Without these shams, thought is no more than naïveté (banging on about the obvious) and, basically, stupidity.

The reflexes of life persist for some time among the guillotined. — So? — That ought to "console" you, since you feel the need to survive...

"...Regarding those who are saddened by the inevitable necessity of death, let them be consoled by the promise of a future immortality."
But those it does not sadden?

Man is an onion, the noblest there is in nature, but a peeling onion — like any other.
A skin? You don't know how right you are.
But, if you remove it, you'll find another, and another ... down to the void at the centre (that's not all that large, either). 
Let's weep, let's weep,
My crocodile brothers.

I don't know whether there are numbers. And you?

Living is a kind of hide-and-seek. In seeking out ideas, men, and oneself, one reckons to have a pretext for not getting lost or, at all events, in the masked ball in which we are carried along, to find one's clothes again in the cloakroom.

Beauty is an excess: not to be confused with perfection, which is only average.

To shut up poetry in the poem is to prevent it penetrating into life. Let's not write anything any more. The poet of tomorrow will be unaware of the very name of poetry.