Marcel Mariën
42 collages on a copy of André Breton's Nadja.
Copy used: André Breton. Nadja. Paris: Librairie Gallimard, 1928. (Mention fictive of third edition). 190 x 122 mm, 220pp., original wrappers covered entirely by collage. Custom-made clamshell box, blue morocco spine, title (Mercher)

Signed,dated and inscribed, 'à André Breton hommage du lecteur, le 21 avril 1938'.

 
Marcel Mariën's reading of Breton's famous book has resulted in a fascinating livre détourné. For the collages Mariën has used, among others, newspaper clippings and cut-up illustrations, a pebble, a dried flower and beads under cellophane, a vintage photograph of himself buried in the sand up to his head. Some pages bear traces of burning, two sheets are sewn with red thread, and 'the reader' has added several autograph texts and some small drawings. And two tipped-in envelopes, sort of prequels to the 'mail-art' of the 1970s. The first letter addressed to "Mr. André Breton / passant / Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle / à Paris", annotated "déjà passé" and of course returned to sender by the postal service (on June 8, 1938), contains a typed letter of 2 pages in-8 with a schematic drawing, the letter relating in nearly-scientific detail a meeting that has not taken place between writer and addressee, although both were walking on the same side walk in opposite directions. The second letter was addressed to "Mademoiselle Nadja / au Sphinx-Hotel / Boulevard Magenta / Paris" and also returned (on May 2, 1938), Mrs. Nadja being unknown at the hotel. To this date, the second envelope still is unopened, and the mystery complete. But Mariën's Nadja is a work of art with an open ending, as he has barred the printing information at the end except for the first word, changing it into 'inachevé'.

For the attention of the collectors not very familiar with Marcel Mariën as maker of collages, we may add that he only made a few in the 1930s, and that a true collection of collages as this altered book constitutes is a truly scarce item. On another level, this is a most revealing testimony as to uneasy relationship between the Paris surrealists and the group around Magritte and Nougé, where Mariën became member of in the late 1930s??? The Brussels group never trusted the creative drive of the subconscious, but in its search for efficiency preferred to use everyday images and texts, taken from low or high culture, altering them into "disturbing objects". Maybe Mariën's returned letter commenting on a missed meeting refers to these disagreements concerning the road to be traveled. And Mariën's lack of respect for the leader of the pack in 1938, prefigures the position he was going to defend in the 1950s, with Les Lèvres Nues and its criticism of surrealist orthodoxy.