Benjamin Péret Criticism - Essay

Mary Ann Caws (essay date 1964)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: “Péret;—Plausible Surrealist,” in Yale French Studies, No. 31, 1964, pp. 105–11.

[In the following essay, Caws assesses Péret's poetry in terms of his consistent adherence to the theories of Surrealism, focusing on elements of repetition, humor, and playfulness.]

André Pieyre de Mandiargues thinks it improbable that Péret will be widely read, while at the same time he maintains: “No one else can now or in the future presume to represent fully and purely Surrealist poetry” (Nouvelle Revue Française, Feb. 1959, p. 552). Péret is the most faithful poet of Surrealism because he is never untrue to its theory; he is the only one constantly at...

(The entire section is 2871 words.)

Mary Ann Caws (essay date 1966)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: “Péret's ‘Amour sublime’—Just Another ‘Amour fou’?” in French Review, Vol. 40, 1966, pp. 204–12.

[In the following essay, Caws compares the surrealist principals of Péret and his works to that of the more prominent André Breton, by whom Péret's reputation has always been overshadowed.]

The reputation of Benjamin Péret (1899–1959) has always been overshadowed by that of Breton. Less well-known than the leader of surrealism, Péret was just as devoted to surrealist principles and poetry to the end of his life. His works have, until recently, been so hard to procure that an Association d'Amis de Benjamin Péret was formed just for the...

(The entire section is 3911 words.)

Mary Ann Caws (essay date 1969)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: “Péret and the Surrealist Word,” in Romance Notes, Vol. XI, No. 2, Winter, 1969, pp. 233–37.

[In the following essay, Caws examines Péret's “attitude toward the language of surrealism,” as suggested by his poetry.]

… je demande la parole

Du bout des lèvres

La Parole est à Péret1—faithful to the surrealist movement until his death, Benjamin Péret has often been considered the most remarkable of surrealist poets. He is known for his unrelenting defense of human liberty against its clerical and capitalist “oppressors,” his constant testimonies to an “amour sublime,” and...

(The entire section is 1544 words.)

Herbert S. Gershman (essay date 1969)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: The Surrealist Revolution in France, University of Michigan Press, 1969, pp. 43–7.

[In the following excerpt, Gershman argues that Péret stands out among the early surrealists in his attempts to fuse the Surrealist principal of “automatic writing” with elements of the Gothic novel.]

Only Péret, of the early surrealists, […] attempted a synthesis of the technique of automatism, carefully controlled so as to give the desired end result, with the content of the Gothic novel: a combination of deliberate sensory and logical confusion with a matching subject. All this in an impeccable syntax.1

—Die, deaf horn!
—Die, eel soap!...

(The entire section is 1970 words.)

Mary Ann Caws (essay date 1972)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: The Inner Theatre of French Poetry: Cendrars, Tzara, Péret, Artaud, Bonnefoy, Princeton University Press, 1972, pp. 75–105.

[In the following excerpt, Caws discusses Péret's poetry as it embodies Surrealist ideals, such as his use of a “language of abundance and explosion.” Caws also examines the ways in which his works stand out among surrealists, such as the uniquely “epic gesture” of some of his poetry.]


Faithful to the surrealist movement until his death, Péret has often been considered the most remarkable poet of that movement, its ideal spokesman of spontaneity. He is known for his...

(The entire section is 7206 words.)

Julia F. Costich (essay date Spring 1974)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Poem in a World of Change: Péret's ‘Quatre à Quatre,”’ in Romance Notes, Vol. 15, No. 3, Spring, 1974, pp. 410–15.

[In the following essay, Costich discusses the concept of change as a “constant condition” in Péret's poetry, focusing on the poem “Quatre à quatre.”]

The Surrealist poem refers to the world of objects and events as well as to itself as a linguistic and poetic entity. By exposing the interaction between “le fonctionnement réel de la pensée”1 and the world of things, the text participates in a mode of perception which defines the phenomena revealed. In Benjamin Péret's work, this reality is one of...

(The entire section is 2225 words.)

J. H. Matthews (essay date 1974)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: “Benjamin Péret: Marvelous Conjunction,” in About French Poetry, edited by Mary Ann Caws, Wayne State University Press, 1974, pp. 126–38.

[In the following essay, Matthews examines the use of the grammatical structure of the conjunction in Péret's poetry in terms of how these parts of speech “paradoxically serve the disjunctive principle” of Surrealism.]

Throughout his life, Benjamin Péret was concerned with establishing a basis for poetic communication commensurate with the situation of the contemporary poet. He saw the poet as legitimately occupying a position at the forefront of cultural development, yet guaranteed neither praise nor reward for...

(The entire section is 4690 words.)

Elizabeth R. Jackson (essay date 1985)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: A Marvelous World: Poems by Benjamin Péret, Louisiana State University Press, 1985, pp. xiii–xvii, 93–97.

[In the following introduction and conclusion to her collection of translated poetry by Péret, Jackson discusses Péret's use of the Surrealist principle of the “marvelous” in his poetry. She goes on to point out the consistency of style and quality throughout his work, offering a brief assessment of his major publications.]

“Birds fly, fish swim, and men invent,” says Benjamin Péret. His poetic world is literally a marvelous invention, so much so that, on entering it, one must first expect the unexpected and then be prepared to enjoy the...

(The entire section is 4074 words.)