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Paperback | $34.95 Trade | £24.95 | ISBN: 9780262518215 | 720 pp. | 7 x 9 in | September 2012

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Dada in Paris

Translated by Sharmila Ganguly


Michel Sanouillet's Dada in Paris, published in France in 1965, reintroduced the Dada movement to a public that had largely ignored or forgotten it. Over forty years later, it remains both the unavoidable starting point and the essential reference for anyone interested in Dada or the early twentieth-century avant-garde. This first English-language edition of Sanouillet's definitive work (a translation of the expanded 2005 French edition) gives English-speaking readers their first direct access to the author's monumental history (based on years of research, including personal involvement with most of the Dadaists still living at the time) and massive compilation of previously unpublished correspondence, including more than 200 letters to and from such movement luminaries as Tristan Tzara, André Breton, and Francis Picabia.

In the years after Dada's relatively brief Paris flowering in the 1920s, its members were often depicted as opportunistic youths, hedonistic jokers engrossed in a monstrous solipsism. Sanouillet was the first to see them instead as the most gifted and sensitive representatives of a generation, intent on finding a new way of living, writing, and feeling. Dada in Paris offers a behind-the-scenes account of the French avant-garde's riotous adolescence, with a timeline that begins with Tzara and Picabia and stretches to include Breton, Philippe Soupault, Louis Aragon, and Paul Éluard. Sanouillet describes the pre-Dada Parisian milieu, the connection made with Zurich Dada, and Parisian Dada projects and their reception. Finally, by 1923, Dada-according-to-Tzara gave way to Dada-according-to-Breton—which a few months later, under tumultuous circumstances, took on the new name of Surrealism. The longer-lasting, more conservative Surrealism would overshadow Dada for decades to come.

About the Author

Michel Sanouillet is a French art historian and one of the leading scholars of the Dada movement. He is Dean Emeritus of the University of Nice, Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto, and founder and first president of the International Association for the Study of Dada and Surrealism.


“It is Sanouillet’s exhaustive approach and painstaking attention to detail, coupled with the obvious pleasure he gained from his research that makes this excellent translation a must for any Dada fan who has not read it in the original language.” — Jane Finigan, The Art Newspaper


"More than forty years after its original publication, Michel Sanouillet's Dada in Paris remains the definitive study of the movement, in all its many manifestations, from its Zurich roots to its post-Surrealist heirs. The revised French edition, with its up-to-date apparatus and marvelous collection of letters between Breton, Tzara, and Picabia--now translated into English for the first time-- is as delightful as it is necessary. Reading Sanouillet in 2009, one comes to understand, all over again, what Dada was and what it meant for the twentieth and twenty-first centuries."
Marjorie Perloff, author of The Futurist Moment: Avant-Garde, Avant Guerre, and the Language of Rapture

"Sanouillet's Dada in Paris is rigorous history while managing to be simultaneously voluptuous like a bath and thrilling like a tabloid. The enormous research and detailed scholarship of Dada's crucial Paris years unfolds here with a joie-de-vivre possible only by having an artist-in-residence, a feat that Sanouillet accomplishes with grace and verve. Short of having experienced 1921 in Paris at the side of Tristan Tzara, I can't think of better company than this dream-inducing thriller, document, and love fest. Like Dada itself, Sanouillet married incompatibles and created a text that resounds with the urgent concerns of the twenty-first century. Dada's timeless time beats are impossible to ignore now."
Andrei Codrescu, author of The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara and Lenin Play Chess

"An illuminating account of the ragged emergence and decline of Dada in the Parisian literary world, and the volatility of the human relationships behind the magazines 391, Dada, and Literature in particular."
Clive Phillpot, freelance writer and curator and former art librarian

"As DADA moves inexorably and rapidly toward its hundredth year, Michel Sanouillet's Dada in Paris arrives as a special gift to those of us who haven't read it in its original form and language. What comes across, along with Sanouillet's painstaking reconstruction of the movement's rise and fall in its short-lived but seminal Paris years, is the revelation of how abidingly young its principal actors were and how forcefully their voices have continued sounding, to incite other poets and artists across the centuries' divide. The exposition of the Sanouillets, when coupled with the very open, very down to earth exchange of letters between Tzara, Breton, and Picabia (nearly a third of the present volume), serves to make the twin movements of Dada and Surrealism Paris-style a reality that we can share and freely draw from in the century to come."
Jerome Rothenberg

"Tzara famously declared that 'Dada is not modern'; Michel Sanouillet's history of its most fruitful and tumultuous years is, for its part, timeless. This classic study takes its place, alongside Hans Richter's Dada: Art and Anti-Art and Robert Motherwell's The Dada Painters and Poets, as an indispensable reference for any serious Dada-watcher. The lengthy appendix of correspondence alone is worth the price of admission, but Dada in Paris offers much more than that: having sifted through mountains of unpublished and archival documents, Sanouillet has crafted a detailed, nuanced, astute, and even (appropriately) humorous account of Dada's migration to France, its guerrilla blitz against the status quo, and its formative impact on decades of intellectual life. The French edition of Dada in Paris has well withstood the test of time; its publication in English arrives not a moment too soon."
Mark Polizzotti, author of Revolution of the Mind: The Life of Andr