Magritte, ars combinatoria, Borges

Les affinités électives (1933)
Written 5 September 2011:

One should not be hasty in assuming that all surrealists held to the party line of the movement. Magritte was more circumspect about the arbitrary juxtapositions that Breton celebrated in Lautréamont. Here's an excerpt from a piece [On “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote” by Jorge Luis Borges] I wrote recently on Borges & his tacit attitude towards surrealism:
I mentioned the propensity of surrealism to capitalize on exotic juxtapositions. Shock effects can easily be produced by juxtaposing two incongruous objects. But how original is this? René Magritte had caveats about such casual juxtapositions, and he considered his artworks exercises in problem-solving, exemplified in his Les affinités électives (1933). In addition to how he solved the particular problem of this work, Magritte in a lecture of February 1937 contrasts arbitrary and essential juxtapositions:
There is a secret affinity between certain images; it is equally valid for the objects which those images represent . . . We are familiar with birds in cages; interest is awakened more readily if the bird is replaced by a fish or a shoe; but though these images are strange they are unhappily accidental, arbitrary. It is possible to obtain a new image which will stand up to examination through having something final, something right about it: it’s the image showing an egg in the cage.

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