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Seasonal Eros in the Calendar of 1929 by Aragon, Peret, and Man Ray
3 mei 2020 

Seasonal Eros in the Calendar of 1929 by Aragon, Peret, and Man Ray

In today’s article, we’ll examine an extremely rare surrealistic brochure 1929. It was made by two famous French poets and one photographer with the founder of surrealistic movement André Breton as an editor (remained unmentioned).  The book of 28 pages was printed in the form of a calendar.

Aragon, Peret, and Man Ray 1929: The cover of the first edition

Fig. 1. The cover of the first edition (photo is taken from abebooks.com)

Clandestine

1929 was originally clandestinely published in Brussels in 1929 (with no indication of the publisher, date, or place of publication) in an edition of 215 and intended for private circulation. Most of the copies were seized by customs on the French border, making the original impossibly rare (photoeye.com). The book was reprinted in 1993 in Paris by Cosa Nostra Experimentale (129 exemplars). The cover was designed by M. Suzuki.

Aragon, Peret, and Man Ray 1929: The cover of the latest edition

Fig. 2. The cover of the latest edition (photo is taken from royalbooklodge.com)

Parodying

The edition is divided into two parts or semesters. The first semester (first half of the year) filled with erotic poems by Peret, the second semester includes poems by Aragon. It must be mentioned that Peret’s poems are parodying famous catholic chants.

Nightclub Singer

The illustrations are four close-up photographs of sexual acts: The Spring, The Summer, The Autumn, The Winter. The participants are probably Man Ray himself and his occasional lover Kiki de Montparnasse (Alice Prin), who was a French artist’s model, literary muse, nightclub singer, actress, and painter.

Aragon, Peret, and Man Ray 1929: Alice Prin' by Julien Mandel

Fig. 3. ‘Alice Prin‘ by Julien Mandel (wiki)

Let’s take a look at each season accompanied by the sacrilegious poems of Benjamin Peret.

Spring / Printemps

Aragon, Peret, and Man Ray 1929: Spring by Man Ray

Fig. 4. ‘Spring‘ by Man Ray

This photograph is a close-up image of a sexual encounter viewed from behind. One can notice that the spring is associated with the deepest penetration in comparison with the summer or the winter.

By the way, this view often can be seen in shunga pictures.

Aragon, Peret, and Man Ray 1929: Kuniyoshi Enseki zasshi Tomioka Eisen, Yakumo no chigiri,

Fig. 5. Left: Kuniyoshi Enseki zasshi, 1833 (kuniyoshiproject.com). Right: Tomioka Eisen, Yakumo no chigiri, 1896

Here is a rough translation of one of the ‘spring’ poems by Peret:

it’s a beautiful clitoris
it’s a huge cock
that excites the clitoris
and makes it come

love love love my cunt
love love love my cock

Bless oh red cock
this juice of your two balls
We want god it’s our cock
We want god it’s our cunt

[capt Fig. 6. Page from the book 1929 with text by Peret[/caption]

The origin of the last verse of this poem is the chorus of the French catholic song Nous Voulons Dieu (We Want God):
Blessed, O tender Mother,
This cry of our faith;
We want God, it’s our Father,
We want God, it’s our King.

Summer / Été

Aragon, Peret, and Man Ray 1929: Summer by Man Ray

Fig. 7. ‘Summer‘ by Man Ray

This photo by Man Ray reminds of traditional shunga close-ups. The artist could be inspired by shunga masters as one may notice a great similarity between The Spring, The Summer, and the erotic works of ukiyo-e artists.

Aragon, Peret, and Man Ray 1929: Close-up with insert of ejaculating penis with cock ring inside vagina by Kunisada

Fig. 8. Left: ‘Close-up with insert of ejaculating penis with cock ring inside vagina‘ (c.1830) attributed to Kunisada. Right: ‘Close-up with insert of ejaculating penis inside vagina‘ (c.1830) attributed to Kunisada.

In addition to this picture we introduce to you another one translation of the poem by Peret:

Ah! little girls who lift their dresses
to masturbate in the bushes
or in the museums
behind the plastered Apollos
while their mother compares the tail of the statue
with that of her husband
and sighs
Ah! if my husband looked like him
One day the mother will come back to the museum alone
but her daughter will run away on the other side with
her tail in hand
and the sorry mother
will steal a
crystal door handle

Fig. 9. Page from the book with the original text.

Autumn / Automne

Aragon, Peret, and Man Ray 1929: Autumn by Man Ray

Fig. 10. ‘Autumn‘ by Man Ray

In contrast with previous photos, this type of image rarely can be noticed in shunga because of the specific Japanese approach to the depiction of people and their genitalia (you can read about it here. In Man Ray’s case, photography allows him to make an impressive portrait of French love. It’s this image in that the woman is clearly identifiable: it is Kiki from Montparnasse <…>. Her lips, with make-up to form the shape of Cupid’s bow, tightly grip a penis that, judging by the angle of the shot, is probably that of the photographer. <…> Many books by surrealist artists are the product of a pornographic imagination, but never in such a scandalous and crude manner as in this publication. (Parr and Badger, he Photobook: A History Volume II, p. 138)

The third poem from this scandalous book is a parody on the hymn Je suis Chrétien (I am a Christian):
Here are my cock and my cum
This is the impetus of my heart
but show me your cunt
right by the window

Here it is, the sweet cunt
The real bread of the balls
whose hairs tickle us
even in the mouth

I’m a fucker this is my glory
my hope is in my hand
I am the great fucker of history
I unload on your dog

Fig. 11. Page with text by Peret

The chorus of the original song:
I am a Christian! This is my glory,
my hope, and my support,
my song of love and victory:
I am a Christian! I am a Christian.

Winter/ Hiver

Aragon, Peret, and Man Ray 1929: Winter by Man Ray

Fig. 12. ‘Winter‘ by Man Ray

In this photograph we can see probably a standing man and a woman who is lying on her back with legs up high. Similar poses were frequently depicted by shunga artists.

Aragon, Peret, and Man Ray 1929: Shuncho and Eizan

Fig. 13. Left: Katsukawa Shuncho, ca. 1790 (Ronin Gallery). Right: Attrib. to Eizan 1787-1867 (Ronin Gallery).

In one of his poems Peret uses a traditional French Christmas carol Il est né, le divin Enfant (He is born, the divine Child) as an object for parody:

He buggers his sweetheart
Jerk off his balls and grasp his buttocks
He buggers his sweetheart
I enjoy on all sides

For more than four thousand years
my buttocks have been waiting
For more than four thousand years
I kept jerking off

He unloads me on the mouth
His cum fills my nostrils
He unloads me on the mouth
Ah I will eat his cock

Ah that he is long and wriggling
Ah that his balls are heavy
Ah that he is long and wriggling
and that red is his glans

Fig. 14. Page from the book with text by Peret.

The fragment of the original song:
He is born, the Heav’nly Child,
Oboes play; set bagpipes sounding.
He is born, the Heav’nly Child,
Let all sing His nativity.

‘Tis four thousand years and more,
Prophets have foretold His coming.
‘Tis four thousand years and more,
Have we waited this happy hour.

Ah, how lovely, Ah, how fair,
What perfection is His graces.
Ah, how lovely, Ah, how fair,
Child divine, so gentle there.

At Christies in 2014 a first edition of Man Ray’s notorious erotic book was hammered at GBP 7,500 (Estimated GBP 3,000-5,000).

Sources: http://www.royalbooklodge.com/en/publications/1929-2/;
https://www.abebooks.fr/edition-originale/1929-ARAGON-Louis-PERET-Benjamin-MAN/30496564072/bd;
https://www.photoeye.com/auctions/Auction.cfm?id=4017
Original texts by Peret: http://melusine-surrealisme.fr/site/Peret/Les%20rouillles.htm

Click HERE to check out an article on Auguste Rodin’s fascination for shunga…!!

What season of 1929 do you like the most? Let us know in the comments below.

About the author
Darya is a philologist who lives and works in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. She is specialized in Russian literature.
Roy Ricci
By

Roy Ricci

on 11 May 2020

Another expressive,thought provoking addition to the art history of Shunga and its impart on modern art. To observe the insights of your team of scholars enriches my appreciation and knowledge of the connective world of art. I have numerous books on Man ray and not one referred to the aforementioned calendar. Kudos.

Darya
By

Darya

on 11 May 2020

It could happen because of censorship, I suppose. These photos by Man Ray are regarded as pornographic and too explicit. Maybe, editors think, this tetraptych is not something new and extraordinary, what one should study as an example of Man Ray's talent. At least, I should say that this book is a rarity, so it could be overlooked by specialists.

Roy Ricci
By

Roy Ricci

on 11 May 2020

Art vs Censorship,the eternal battle that shouldn't exist. Man Ray powered photographic surrealism and thanks again for unveiling this "coital" chapter of his art.

Darya
By

Darya

on 12 May 2020

Thank you for your comments, Roy! We'll publish some more insights on surrealists' works in the near future.

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