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Holding in its hands its head "as it spoke," surrealism wanted to write its self automatically, to have its language out of control, and had instead its own self-reflection. What that has left the critic to talk about, the academic and unacademic writer after surrealist nostalgia to write about, has been a reading of the surrealist project coloured with its own projection of what this out-of-control control might have been. Here inscribed under the heading of re-reading, re-writing, and self-deconstructing, a new projection appears, believing strongly - and communicating as strongly as that belief - that "only when language is felt to have lost its head, can the writing pick up where the speaking leaves off." This is that leaving off of speaking and that pick-me-up of writing. The Spanish upside down question mark beginning the interrogation which a right-side up question mark concludes perpetrates, quite wonderfully, the notion that there might be some perfectly doubtful centre: in this doubt Wills puts his re-investigation of surrealism, which is itself centred about one of the most doubting projects, that of Robert Desnos' texts, perhaps the most enthusiastically commented at present of any in the surrealist canon. The way in which Desnos' texts do and then undo Breton's passed-on project of a transcendental automatic dictation (that "so prehensile tail of romanticism" that Breton claimed surrealism to be) is the subject of the following pages. Wills works out not just Derridean deconstructive devices such as deferring and differancing, but relies also on Barthes and his perception, on Riffaterre and others of the newer stylistics, on Bataille, Klossowski, and Mr Sade himself, to speak up Desnos.[...] What Wills proves is how rich a field (how deceptive a minefield!) is Desnos in his many surrealist manifestations. (Mary Ann Caws, Distinguished Professor of French and Comparative Literature, City University of New York)
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