Dormir, dormir dans les pierres : poème

Year: 1927

Author: Benjamin Péret (1899 - 1959)

Artist: Yves Tanguy (1900 - 1955)

Publisher: Éditions Surréalistes

Dormir, dormir dans les pierres : poème, title page

Many friendships were broken by Surrealism. Yves Tanguyeven gave up his friendship with singer Jacques Prévert (whom he had met in the navy), and writers Raymond Queneau and Georges Duhamel for it. This did give him a decent career as a Surrealist, and Surrealism undoubtedly allowed Tanguy to penetrate the core of his art.

Tanguy, a painter of portraits, animals and landscapes in gouache and other techniques, was never abstract, according to one of his contemporaries; everything he painted, was observed; his paintings are landscapes of the soul. Not only did he discard his friends, he also destroyed much of his pre-Surrealist work. Although he co-signed many of the Surrealist manifestos and followed the politics of leader André Breton, he remained nearly invisible within the group, an outsider who chose to follow his own path and finally departed to America in 1939. The 15 pen drawings Tanguy made for his partner Benjamin Péret in 1927 are considered his finest illustrations, because visual language and poems are perfectly balanced in this book.

Benjamin Péret made his debut in 1921 with Le passager du transatlantique, when the Parisian art world was still defined by Dada. That environment was already thoroughly Surrealist by 1927. His work from these years demonstrates that he was at the centre of contemporary art: his books were illustrated by, consecutively, Hans Arp, Max Ernst, Man Ray and Yves Tanguy. Péret was known as a sharp satirist, anti-bourgeois, anti-everything really (the army, the clergy, Christianity, Stalinism). The five poems that together make up the collection Dormir, dormir dans les pierres ('To sleep, to sleep in the rocks'), appeared previously in the magazine Cahiers du Sud (1926). The numbering of the poems is an element of Tanguy's drawings.

Dormir, dormir dans les pierres : poème, colophon

Escape from reason

These are some of the rare love poems that Péret wrote. They are set in the domain of sleep and dreams, in a landscape of transparent minerals, such as glass and salt, and simple plants and flowers, like the daisy. It is a lonely world, in which truth is hidden in coal, and where the wind is a harbinger of change. Sleep is portrayed as unification with nature, and specifically with stones and rocks. Just like alcohol and death, sleep offers the possibility of escape from reason. The text is inspired by free associations, but for Péret, a supporter of écriture automatique, this never becomes a simple gimmick. Dreams, death, love and poetry are used as themes that have been woven together into a whole.

Péret suited the publisher's list of the Éditions surréalistes in Paris perfectly. The firm was founded in 1926 and existed until 1968. A total number of 59 works was published, of which Dormir, dormir dans les pierres was the seventh. The publisher also produced political pamphlets and exhibition catalogues, but their editions of poetry are now the most sought after, mostly because of their famous illustrations. All the promonent figures of Surrealism show up in the publisher's list. Péret's book, published on 31 January 1927, contains 34 unnumbered pages in an illustrated card cover. The edition consists of 205 copies, of which this is one printed on ordinary laid paper. All of the copies - including this one: number 36 - are signed by the author and the artist. Some copies were finished by the artist in person; on the cover and the title page, a rock formation has been accentuated with white paint, a small lake has been coloured green and two pyramids bear red accents. This copy belongs to that special part of the edition. The copies printed on Japanese paper have extra additions in gouache.

Bibliographical description

Description: Dormir, dormir dans les pierres: poème / Benjamin Péret ; dessins d'Yves Tanguy. - Paris : Éditions Surréalistes, 1927. - [31] p. : ill. ; 23 cm

Printer: Éditions Surréalistes (Paris)

Edition: 205 copies

This copy: Number 36 of 175

Note: Signed by the author and the artist

Bibliography: Bénézit 13-455 ; Castleman 179 ; Hogben 80 ; Mahé III-92 ; Monod 8959

Shelfmark: KW Koopm M 743


  • Paul van Capelleveen, Sophie Ham, Jordy Joubij, Voices and visions. The Koopman Collection and the Art of the French Book. The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands; Zwolle, Waanders, 2009
  • Paul van Capelleveen, Sophie Ham, Jordy Joubij, Voix et visions. La Collection Koopman et l'Art du Livre français. La Haye, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Bibliothèque nationale des Pays-Bas; Zwolle, Waanders, 2009
  • Julia Field Costich, The poetry of change: A study of the surrealist works of Benjamin Péret. Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1979
  • Karin von Maur, Yves Tanguy und der Surrealismus. Ostfildern-Ruit, Hatje Cantz, 2000.
  • Benjamin Péret, Benjamin Péret. Paris, Seghers, 1961
  • Georges Sebbag, Les Éditions Surréalistes, 1926-1968. Paris, Institut Mémoires de l'Edition contemporaine (IMEC), 1993