Salvador text Andre Breton Man Ray

Surrealism-Plays is a site devoted to the history and creative works of the Surrealist Movement, as well as the anti-tradition of avant-garde theatre.


Belgian Surrealism emerged with the publication of Correspondance in 1924, the same year as Breton's First Manifesto. The periodical was printed on different colored fliers and featured critiques of many of the French Surrealists' writing and philosophies. Other periodicals published by the group during the 1920s included OEsophage, Marie and Distance. (For further descriptions of these publications, please click here to visit our Periodicals page).

The Belgian Surrealists were on a mission to "put the real world on trial" and to challenge traditional ways of thinking. Key participants included E.L.T. Mesens, Paul Nougé, René Magritte, Camille Goemans, Marcel Lecomte and, a bit later, Marcel Mariën.

Several members of the Belgian Group interacted and collaborated with the French Surrealists. In fact, both Nougé and Magritte are featured in the famous 1929 photomontage of the French Surrealist members with their eyes closed, printed that year in Le Révolution Surréaliste.

René Magritte

Magritte - The Lovers

E.L.T. Mesens

E.L.T. Mesens - The Prowler  E.L.T. Mesens - Collage

Already the wax mannequins invade the libraries
Women walk like wet flags
The insane hand out the image of their mind
At the doors of disused churches

From Proclamation (1934) by E.L.T. Mesens

Paul Nougé

Understanding of Nature
from Optics Unveiled (1924)
by Paul Nougé

     The keyhole projects a ray across this nocturnal darkness.  On a table whose form one can just make out, a bottle becomes evident. The bottle lights up vividly and one can see the sparkling of the liquid; it is a blue liquid.
     The bottle and the light are alone on the table.
     The light merges curiously with the blue water in the midst of an incomparable silence. Then a patch of brightness, a patch veined with red, reveals the wall. Its form is not fixed; it shifts; it could be a changing face. Objects slowly emerge: three roses, a smashed-open wardrobe, a hanging dress, a coat standing out against nothingness. Finally a charming young woman in a low-cut dress who is supervising the experiment and who is holding in her hand, at the end of a hair, a little ball of elder-pith.

Translated by Iain White

From Paul Nougé: Works Selected by Marcel Mariën published by Atlas Press

Marcel Mariën

Marcel Marien Photo 1 Marcel Marien Photo2

Selected Books

Surrealism in Belgium 1924-2000 by Xavier Canonne
Thames & Hudson 2007
Collective Inventions: Surrealism in Belgium
Leuven University Press 2007
Don't Tell Sybil, An Intimate Memoir of ELT Mesens by George Melly
Heinemann 1997

Paul Nougé: Works Selected by Marcel Mariën
Atlas Press 1995
The Life and Death of La Belle Desiderata by Marcel Mariën
Atlas Press 1991

Correspondance Didier Devillez Éditeur 1993
Marie: Journal Bimensuel Pour La Belle Jeunesse
Didier Devillez Éditeur 1993
OEsophage Didier Devillez Éditeur 1993

Magritte: Attempting the Impossible by Siegfried Gohr
Distributed Art Publishers 2009
Magritte by Jacques Meuris Cromwell Editions 1988

Note: There are certainly other good books devoted to the art of René Magritte; however, the list is far too copious to include here in its entirety.

Belgian Surrealists
Above: The Belgian Surrealist group, including E.L.T. Mesens, René Magritte and
Paul Nougé, during the 1920s.

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a collection of
Surrealist Plays

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Sanctus Fumigaci by Todd Bash

"Todd Bash is one of the few contemporary playwrights who captures the spirit of surrealism. In fact, surrealist figures from the past, such as Luis Buñuel, Salvador Dalí and Paul Eluard, appear as characters in a couple of his plays. Dream-like, funny, and sometimes disturbing, SANCTUS FUMIGACI (which, in English, loosely translates to "Holy Smoke") is recommended for fans of avant-garde literature and experimental theater."