In a speech given in Prague in 1935, Andre Breton asked, 'Is there, properly speaking, a left-wing art capable of defending itself?'. But despite his conviction that surrealism did indeed offer such an art, Breton always struggled to make a theoretical connection between the surrealists' commitment to the cause of revolutionary socialism and the form that surrealist art and literature took. Obscure Objects of Desire explores ways in which such a connection might be drawn, addressing the possibility of surrealist works as political in themselves and drawing on ways in which they have been considered as such by Marxists such as Benjamin and Adorno and by recent cultural critics. Encompassing Breton's and Aragon's textual accounts of the object, as well as paintings and the various kinds of objet surrealiste produced from the end of the 1920s, Malt mobilises the concept of the fetish in order to consider such works as meeting points of surrealism's psychoanalytic and revolutionary preoccupations. Reading surrealist works of art and literature as political is by no means the same thing as knowing the surrealist movement to have been a politically motivated one.
The revolutionary character of the surrealist work itself, in isolation from the polemical positions taken up by Breton and others on its behalf, is not always evident; indeed, the works themselves often seem to express a rather different set of concerns. As well as offering a new perspective on familiar works such as the paintings of Salvador Dali, and relatively neglected ones like Breton's poemes-objets, this book recuperates the gap between theory and practice as a productive space in which it is possible to recontextualize surrealist practice as an engagement with political questions on its own terms.