Kafka, and Surrealism, Will Make You Smarter

André Breton, Qu’est-ce que le surréalisme?, Brussels, René Henriquez Editeur, 1934
André Breton, Qu’est-ce que le surréalisme?, Brussels, René Henriquez Editeur, 1934

by Willa A. Cmiel

“…At this juncture, my intention was merely to mark a point by noting the hate of the marvelous which rages in certain men, this absurdity beneath which they try to bury it.  Let us not mince words: the marvelous is always beautiful, anything marvelous is beautiful, in fact only the marvelous is beautiful.”

The Guardian this afternoon:

Research from psychologists at the University of California in Santa Barbara and the University of British Columbia claims to show that exposure to surrealism enhances the cognitive mechanisms which oversee implicit learning functions. The psychologists showed a group of subjects Kafka’s story The Country Doctor.

…A second group were shown the same story, but rewritten so the plot made more sense. Both groups were then asked to complete an artificial grammar learning task which saw them exposed to hidden patterns in letter strings, and then asked to copy the strings and mark those which followed a similar pattern.

Andre Breton (in italics above) may have argued the same in the nineteen-twenties–and without the need to compensate any test subjects, no less–but I won’t disagree with the inclusion of science.  In any case, “The Country Doctor” is just about the only Kafka I haven’t read.  Well, to the bookstore!

Here’s Breton in 1924:

Under the pretense of civilization and progress, we have managed to banish from the mind everything that may rightly or wrongly be termed superstition, or fancy; forbidden is any kind of search for truth which is not in conformance with accepted practices. It was, apparently, by pure chance that a part of our mental world which we pretended not to be concerned with any longer — and, in my opinion by far the most important part — has been brought back to light.

More  from science and the Guardian here.


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