Reading: Abusing Surrealism: Pynchon's V. and Breton's Nadja


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Abusing Surrealism: Pynchon's V. and Breton's Nadja


Alex McAulay

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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In his introduction to Slow Learner, Pynchon mentions two aesthetic movements which influenced his own writing: that of the Beats, and Surrealism. While he says the effect of the Beat writers was "exciting, liberating, and strongly positive" (7), he also positions his own writing as "post-Beat" (9). In contrast, he says he has "abuse[d]" Surrealism even more extensively than other influences in the years since writing his early stories in the late 1950s and early 1960s (20). This remark suggests that the influence of Surrealism continued to grow rather than wane as Pynchon wrote V. and his other novels, and that Surrealism may be an even more important influence on Pynchon than the Beats. Although the Beats share certain narrative techniques with the Surrealists, as exemplified by works like Burroughs's Naked Lunch and Ginsberg's Howl, the focus in this essay will be on the Surrealist techniques advanced by Andre Breton as they are manifested in V.
How to Cite: McAulay, A., (2001). Abusing Surrealism: Pynchon's V. and Breton's Nadja. Pynchon Notes. (46-49), pp.131–141. DOI:
Published on 22 Sep 2001.
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