A Book of Surrealist Games

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews A Book of Surrealist Games compiled by Alastair Brotchie, edited by Mel Gooding.

Brotchie Gooding A Book of Surrealist Games

“[T]he game became a system, a method of research, a means of exaltation and stimulus, a mine, a treasure-trove and finally, perhaps, a drug.” –Simone Collinet (144)

In this very little volume, editor Mel Gooding describes and compiler Alastair Brotchie demonstrates the centrality of games to the Surrealist enterprise. An inventory of ludic methods indicate how texts, images, discursive events, and other objects are produced through the application of automatism, chance, and the absorption of individual efforts into transpersonal aggregates. 

The fourth of the four sections consists primarily of source notes and commentaries, and even includes a list of the “known” Surrealist games which are not represented among the recipes and samples in the collection. There are two useful bibliographies: one an abridgement of Kurt Seligman’s 1943 bibliography of Surrealist works (133), the other Brotchie’s own pointers for “Further Reading in English.” (164) In the very end of the volume, seven pages are occupied by “The Little Surrealist Dictionary.” 

A Book of Surrealist Games is admirably designed, with a built-in bookplate on the inside front cover, many black-and-white reproductions of Surrealist visual works, and portraits of key 20th-century Surrealists. The game instructions are in most cases perfectly lucid, and ready for practical application.