November 03, 2010

Flagrant délit : when A. Breton denounces La Chasse Spirituelle

In 1949, in a pamphlet entitled Flagrant Délit, André Breton denounced and came back on one of the funniest literary fakes of the twentieth century. On 19th May of the same year, the editor Le Mercure de France, under the leadership of Maurice Saillet and Pascal Pia, published a lost manuscript of Arthur Rimbaud : La Chasse Spirituelle. In the preface of the book, Pascal Pia put forward the parallels between the previous work of the young poet and these pages. Breton was the first to rose up and demonstrated that those writings were misleading and parody :
Even if the abuse of trust lasts only a second, there is an injury to the innocence - innocence without which there can be no emotional apprehension of a art work and that leaves us with the suspicion of a trap.
Le Mercure de France withdrew the book from sale and gave the profits to the Rimbaud Museum. The perpetrators of this fraud, the actors Nicolas Bataille and akakia Viala, finally came forward and explained their motivation : the theatrical show they had created in 1948, an adaptation of Une Saison En Enfer, was demolished by the critics and they wanted to trap their detractors.
We now know that the manuscript La Chasse Spirituelle probably never existed. This title was made up by Paul Verlaine to designate a compromising correspondence with Rimbaud, discovered by his wife Mathilde, and that he wished not to be used in a divorce proceedings.

Currently, the Librairie Loliée offers :
  • [Rimbaud (Arthur)]. La Chasse spirituelle. Introduction de Pascal Pia. Paris, Mercure de France, 1949, in-8 carré, cover. Firs Edition. Copy on velum paper.
  • Breton (André). Flagrant Délit. Rimbaud devant la conjuration de l’imposture et du trucage. Paris, Thésée, 1949, illustrated cover. Firs edition. One of the 100 first copies on Holland paper, signed by André Breton . Copy dedicated to Edmond Bomsel.