J. V. Foix Essay - Critical Essays


By 1930, J. V. Foix had developed the mainstays of his craft upon which he would effect countless variations. In particular, he had perfected his favored techniques of antithesis: the old opposed to the new, the familiar articulated with the exotic, reason contravened by follia, fantastical narratives counterbalanced by references to the workaday world, Arcadia admixed with veristic depictions of the Catalan landscape. Other quintessential traits of Foix’s resourcefulness readily come to mind: his lyric élan, his profuse language contained within exquisite conciseness of form elaborated to an adamantine luster, his play on perspectivism and the effects of trompe l’oeil, inviting analogies with the visual arts (especially with paintings of Giorgio de Chirico, Dali, Yves Tanguy, René Magritte, Miró). Foix’s associations with the Buñuel of Un Chien andalou (1928) and L’Âge d’or (1930) fostered, no doubt, his strong penchant for transforming into devices of literature sudden shifts of focus, flashbacks and flash-forwards, telescopings and superimpositions of images, panoramic shots, foreshadowings, fade-outs, and other cinematic techniques.

Through his mimesis of the oneiric experience, Foix unfolds the wide horizons of a kaleidoscopic, constantly changing universe: He evokes a dreamlike world in a state of flux, brings about mutations upon a protean imagery, develops into full-fledged personal myths symbols rooted in the subconscious. In the final analysis, however, the universe he envisages remains, as Terry has perceptively pointed out, strikingly unified—paradoxical and mysterious though its unity may be. It is because of his convictions concerning an absolute order which governs all things and also because of his compelling drive toward explorations beyond well-trodden paths that Foix, despite his obvious indebtedness to the champions of Surrealism, is not merely another epigone of that movement.

Foix is a bold exponent of the avant-garde, “a poet, magician, speculator of the word,” to use his own words, an “investigator of poetry.” In his reflections on his own work, Foix employs distinctive terminology–alliberament (liberation), “el risc de la investigació estética” (the risk of aesthetic research), “un joc gairebé d’atzar” (a game of chance, just about), “l’exercici de la facultat de descobrir” (the exercise of the skill of making discoveries)—in order to describe his exploratory, “investigative” imagination. Though keenly aware of the pitfalls lurking in his risky ventures as an avant-garde artist, Foix will not accept a road map or even, at times, general bearings from the Surrealists or from other revered masters. He insists on sallying forth, on his own, into uncharted realms of the imagination, so allured is he by prospects of serendipitous innovations and by the intuition of elusive sobiranes certeses (sovereign certainties).

“Without Symbolism”

Thus do Foix’s, and the reader’s, literary adventures begin. At the outset, the author dazzles the reader with an array of colors, odors, sounds, and other sensory perceptions. He frequently projects himself into the persona of the passionate lover, engulfed in one of his usual reveries about his femme fatale. Typical is the prose poem from Gertrudis, “Sense simbolisme” (“Without Symbolism”), in which a lover embarks upon a first-person account of a doomed amatory episode. “I abandoned the horse,” says the lover, for a start, “that, by the most beauteous blinking of his eyelids, had converted the sun into an ornament for his forehead, and I made sure to take this ornament along with me that night—a very special lantern which guided me, faithfully, to Gertrude’s garden.” The lover finds his amada “tooting” his name “to the pretty cadence of a popular fox-trot.” His attempt to embrace her is foiled by “the viscosity of a precise ray of moonlight.” Ensuing scenes have the disjointedness of a dream. The sight of Gertrude’s tresses stimulates a train of heady olfactory impressions: “The intense odor of the acacias anesthetized us so that we felt on the verge of a fainting spell. By sheer will power, I managed, though, to collect all the odors and enclose them in a case held shut by a ring studded with genuine jewels; and I felt at once revived by my audaciousness at this happy stroke of luck.”

Lucky, however, the lover is not, as he soon discovers. In bold images of the type which Carlos Bousoña has labeled visión, Gertrude is shown as literally reaching for the stars: “She would unhook the stars one by one and would rinse them, with a shuddering of the infinite, in a pond half green, half silver, and would release them to the toads. . . .” This is clearly the high point of the episode. In contrast with a superwoman endowed with the might of a demiurge, the lover could not be cast in a more demeaning and ridiculous role. He is left to “harmonize” the “infamous croakings” of those denizens of stagnant waters “with the aid of a system of pedals that my beloved, with foresight, had providently arranged.” He tries again, to no avail, to possess his beloved.

The distressed lover has little else to do but...

(The entire section is 2168 words.)