After reading Andre Breton’s Nadja, I am rather fascinated by the use of the character of Nadja to portray a Surrealist lifestyle. In the novel, Nadja is “the soul in limbo”, and the narrator has taken her for “a free genius.” What intrigues me is about how she is considered to be very free, and yet she ended up in an asylum. In other words, she may be living a free life, but to authority figures, she is a danger to society. In my opinion, Breton is somehow saying that the freedom of imagination is a threat to authority figures.
The government has forced too many ideas upon the individuals that they can no longer think for themselves. And when individuals stand out from the rest with their own interesting way of living, authority thinks that it is due to some mental illness or madness, or try to make it look like it is. By locking Nadja up in an asylum, the authorities are either trying to actually cure her insanity, or they are simply trying to prevent her from influencing others. The narrator in the novel says, “Unless you have been inside a sanitarium you do not know that madmen are made there, just as criminals are made in our reformatories.” It makes me think that sometimes, people are put into asylums simply because the authority wants to find fault in them.
Looking at this from another angle, we can see that Surrealism IS a rebellion against authority. It is not a physical rebellion, but a mental rebellion. Surrealism is based on the mental battle against the forced and habitual thoughts constructed by the government or authority figures. However, if we practice a Surrealist lifestyle too freely, we will be considered to be different in a bad way rather than good.