I will never forget the tremendously impactful first lines of Nadja. The narrator calls on a proverb, one that was new to me at the time when I first read the book in a Surrealism in Painting and Film course in college.
“Dis moi qui tu hantes et je te dirai qui tu es” (“tell me who you haunt and I’ll tell you who you are”).
“Who do I haunt?” I wondered. Am I the composite of my friends, past and future, close and distant? The idea of a fluid and malleable identity, one based on your relationships, is revolutionary for the American psyche and is at the center of Nadja.
Brimming with hallmarks of Surrealism, a movement that was spearheaded by Breton, Nadja is a vignette of light episodes centering on the narrator’s strolls through Paris in pursuit of his elusive lover, Nadja, whose name means something between “hope” in Russian and “no one” in Spanish.
Nadja is about convulsive beauty, chance encounters, and the destabilizing power of ambiguity. It is a book as delicious as salted caramel.
Nadja by André Breton, Grove Press
literary fiction, Poetry
Kimberly Corliss is a bookseller at Albertine and the copywriter at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York. She fell in love with French culture at 8 years old when she was introduced to the language through a whimsical and playful class at school. This love persisting, Kim graduated Magna cum Laude/Phi Beta Kappa from Barnard College of Columbia University with a B.A. in French Language & Literature in 2012.
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January 11, 1994