Category Archives: literature

Surrealist literary technique


After World War I, Europe was in misanthropic and anti-war moods.  Dadaism, which was an international artistic and literary movement in European countries, was born as a nihilistic  reaction against establishment, oppression and conformity.  Tristan Tzara who was a core member of Dadaism in Zurich declared “DADA DOES NOT MEAN ANYTHING” in his book “Seven Dada Manifestos and Lampisteries” in 1917.

“Every page should explode, either because of its profound gravity or its vortex, vertigo, newness, eternity, or because of its staggering absurdity, the enthusiasm of its principles, or its typography.”  – Tristan Tzara”Seven Dada Manifestos and Lampisteries”


Gradually, some Dadaists were interested in Surrealism which was similar artistic and literary movement consecrated by Andre Breton in 1924.  Surrealists began to experiment with techniques such as automatic writing and poetry.  Also, they tried interactive co-creation that multiple writers add a few more lines after the sentence others wrote.


Dada and Surrealism

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Surrealism

Tristan Tzara. 1977. Seven Dada Manifestos and Lampisteries, translated by Barbara Wright. London. John Calder. p.6.


Mapping Literature : W.G. Sebald “The Ring of Saturn”

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LITMAP: Mapping Literature – Barbara L Hui

Litmap is a geological references of  literature using Google Map.  The website shows all places refereed in “The Ring of Saturn” by German novelist W.G. Sebald.

W.G. Sebald “The Ring of Saturn”

After World War II, Sebald moved to England and settled in Norwich until his death by a car accident in 2001.  In “The Ring of Saturn”, a character wanders both real places in Suffork and reminiscent places, related to literature and Sebald’s memory in the World War II.  In other words, the book is an noctambulous travel essay the author is straying around his memory and imaginary landscapes written in literature, he had never been before.

Litmap and “Patience : After Sebald”

The book has fascinated many people, and some of them created fan works.  Litmap is one of the fun works about “Ring of Saturn” by Barbara L Hui.  She checked all places refereed in the book, and added pins on Google Map.  In the book, it is almost impossible to follow his journey because he was straying not only Suffolk (he was there) but also around German, Africa, Poland and France at the same time.  She unveiled his mysterious footsteps by elaborate research.  We can see a episode of the book if we click a pin on the Litmap.

One of the most significant work is “Patience After Sebald”, which is a video directed by Grant Geed.  In the video, Litmap was introduced.

Patience (After Sebald) Full Movie

Non-linear Narrative and Mapping

As seen above, “The Ring of Saturn” is a kind of non-linear narrative.  There are lots of landscapes which seems not to be related to each other.  However, Sebald connect these landscapes within his memory.  He took a walk from Suffolk in 1990’s to Germany under the fire in 1940’s in a sentence.  Litmap sorted out the incoherent narrative order and shows them as a visual.

Cut-up and Fold-in techunique

William S. Burroughs “Naked Lunch”

“You were not there for the beginning. You will not be there for the end. Your knowledge of what is going on can only be superficial and relative”

“The junk merchant doesn’t sell his product to the consumer, he sells the consumer to his product. He does not improve and simplify his merchandise. He degrades and simplifies the client.” ― William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch

American novelist William Burroughs wrote a non-linear narrative novel called “Naked Lunch” in 1959.  The book is comprised of many short scenes loosely connected each other. Although there is a main character and something like a plot, it is hard to understand as a story.  Readers may read wherever they want.  The book evokes fragments of daydream by drug freak (Burroughs is famous for his drug and alcohol addiction). According to Burroughs (1962), British writer and painter Brion Gysin experimented with literary cut-up technique in 1959. The method became popular between 1950s and 1960s, and Burroughs and some writers used the method in their works.

Cut-up and Fold-in method

Cut-up and Fold-in are literary collage technique to create a new text from a original text.  Cut-up is performed by cutting an original text and divining it into several pieces.  After cutting, these sentence pieces are rearranged as a new text.  “Naked Lunch” is written using the cut-up technique.

Fold-in method requires to fold a pages in the middle and place it on another page.  The new text page consist of half of one page and half of another page.

Online Cut-up Laboratory

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Online Cut-up Laboratory provides text area which converts text into cut-up pieces of words.  Users can rearrange these words as they like.


Naked Lunch Quotes

William Burroughs, “The Cut Up Method” from Leroi Jones, ed., The Moderns: An Anthology of New Writing in America (NY: Corinth Books, 1963).

Brion : CUT-UP

William S. Burroughs Cut-ups

Brent Wood. William S. Burroughs and the Language of Cyberpunk

Tristan Tzara. 1977. Seven Dada Manifestos and Lampisteries, translated by Barbara Wright. London: John Calder.

Adamowicz, E. (ed.). 2006. Surrealism : crossings/frontiers.Oxford : P. Lang.

Burroughs, W. S. 1962. The Cut-Up Method of Brion Gysin. Texas: Totem Press.


Oupipo (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle : workshop of potential literature ) was a French writers workshop which sought to possibility of literature under technical restriction.  The founders were Noël Arnaud,  Jacques Bens , Claude Berge, Jacques Duchateau, Latis (Emmanuel Peillet) ,François Le Lionnais, Jean Lescure, Raymond Queneau and Jean Queval Albert-Marie Schmidt.

The literal bondage was as below:  palindromes, univocalism, S+7, Prisoner’s constraint, snowball, lipograms (a composition from which the writer systematically omits a certain letter or certain letters of the alphabet)  and palindrome (a word, phrase, or sequence that reads the same backwards as ).

One of the most famous Oulipian’s works is “A Void” (“La Disparition”) by  Georges Perec in 1969.  The remarkable novel never uses the alphabet “e”, which is most often used alphabet in French.  “Exercices de Style” written by Raymond Queneau in 1947 showed ninety-nine types of writing styles by rewriting a very simple and boring short scene.



Oulipo: freeing literature by tightening its rules

Raymond Queneau “Hundred Thousand Billion Poems”

Raymond Queneau “Hundred Thousand Billion Poems”

“Hundred Thousand Billion Poems”

Raimond Queneau was a French novelist well known as a co-founder of  Ouvroir de littérature potentielle (Oulipo).  Oulipo’s meaning is ” a workshop of potential literature”,and they investigated potential of literature under structural constraints.

Queneau created “Hundred Thousand Billion Poems” (Cent Mille Milliards de poèmes), which consists of 14 sets of 10 lines in 1961.  Readers choose one line from ten choices, and continue the process fourteen times.  In fact, there are 10*14 patterns (hundred thousand billion) of poems in the small book.

Online “Hundred Thousand Billion Poems”

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It seems to be one of generative literature . There is a program of “Hundred Thousand Billion Poems” made by one of his fans on the internet. Lines are selected automatically when readers put their cursor on each line.


100,000,000,000,000 Sonnets