The Secret Life of Salvador Dali (5 page)

BOOK: The Secret Life of Salvador Dali
3.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Like one possessed I ran to the hospital, and I clutched at the surgeon’s uniform with such a display of animal fear that he treated me with exceptional circumspection, as though I had been myself a patient. For a week I was in an almost constant state of tears and wept in every circumstance in which I found myself, to the complete astonishment of my close friends among the surrealists. A Sunday came when Gala was definitely out of danger, and the hour of death in holiday-clothes respectfully backed away on tiptoe. Galuchka was smiling, and at last I held her hand pressed against my cheek. And with tenderness I thought: “After all this, I could kill you!”

XIX

My three voyages to Vienna were exactly like three drops of water which lacked the reflections to make them glitter. On each of these voyages I did exactly the same things: in the morning I went to see the Vermeer in the Czernin Collection, and in the afternoon I did
not
go to visit Freud because I invariably learned that he was out of town for reasons of health.

I remember with a gentle melancholy spending those afternoons walking haphazardly along the streets of Austria’s ancient capital. The chocolate tart, which I would hurriedly eat between the short intervals of going from one antiquary to another, had a slightly bitter taste resulting from the antiquities I saw and accentuated by the mockery of the meeting which never took place. In the evening I held long and exhaustive imaginary conversations with Freud; he even came home with me once and stayed all night clinging to the curtains of my room in the Hotel Sacher.

Several years after my last ineffectual attempt to meet Freud, I made a gastronomic excursion into the region of Sens in France. We started the dinner with snails, one of my favorite dishes. The conversation turned to Edgar Allan Poe, a magnificent theme while savoring snails, and concerned itself particularly with a recently published book by the Princess of Greece, Marie Bonaparte, which is a psychoanalytical study of Poe. All of a sudden I saw a photograph of Professor Freud on the front page of a newspaper which someone beside me was reading. I immediately had one brought to me and read that the exiled Freud had just arrived in Paris. We had not yet recovered from the effect of this news when I uttered a loud cry. I had just that instant discovered the morphological secret of Freud! Freud’s cranium is a snail! His brain is in the form of a spiral–to be extracted with a needle! This discovery strongly influenced the portrait drawing which I later made from life, a year before his death.

Raphael’s skull is exactly the opposite of Freud’s; it is octagonal like a carved gem, and his brain is like veins in the stone. The skull of
Leonardo is like those nuts that one crushes: that is to say, it looks more like a real brain.

I was to meet Freud at last, in London. I was accompanied by the writer Stefan Zweig and by the poet Edward James. While I was crossing the old professor’s yard I saw a bicycle leaning against the wall, and on the saddle, attached by a string, was a red rubber hot-water bottle which looked full of water, and on the back of the hot-water bottle walked a snail! The presence of that assortment seemed strange and inexplicable in the yard of Freud’s house.

Contrary to my hopes we spoke little, but we devoured each other with our eyes. Freud knew nothing about me except my painting, which he admired, but suddenly I had the whim of trying to appear in his eyes as a kind of dandy of “universal intellectualism.” I learned later that the effect I produced was exactly the opposite.

Before leaving I wanted to give him a magazine containing an article I had written on paranoia. I therefore opened the magazine at the page of my text, begging him to read it if he had time. Freud continued to stare at me without paying the slightest attention to my magazine. Trying to interest him, I explained that it was not a surrealist diversion, but was really an ambitiously scientific article, and I repeated the title, pointing to it at the same time with my finger. Before his imperturbable indifference, my voice became involuntarily sharper and more insistent. Then, continuing to stare at me with a fixity in which his whole being seemed to converge, Freud exclaimed, addressing Stefan Zweig, “I have never seen a more complete example of a Spaniard. What a fanatic!”

 

1
The bird always awakens in man the flight of the cannibal angels of his cruelty. Della Porta in his
Natural Magica
give the recipe for cooking turkey without killing it, so as to achieve that supreme refinement: to make it possible to eat it cooked and living.

2
I have always refused to eat a shapeless mess of oysters detached from their shells and served in a soup-dish, even though they were the freshest and best in the world.

3
It is only in writing down this anecdote that I am struck by the obvious connection, if only as a pure association of ideas, between the Virgin and the scales in the signs of the Zodiac. As she now appears in my memory, moreover, the Virgin was standing on a “celestial sphere.” This would-be mystification was therefore nothing more nor less than an anticipation, the first realization of the future Dalinian philosophy of painting; that is to say the sudden materialization of the suggested image; the all-powerful fetishistic corporeality of virtual phantoms which are thereby endowed with all the attributes of realism belonging to tangible objects.

4
Iberian Anarchist Federation.

CHAPTER TWO

Intra-Uterine Memories

I presume that my readers do not at all remember, or remember only very vaguely, that highly important period of their existence which anteceded their birth and which transpired in their mother’s womb. But I–yes, I remember this period, as though it were yesterday. It is for this reason that I propose to begin the book of my secret life at its real and authentic beginning, namely with the memories, so rare and liquid, which I have preserved of that intra-uterine life, and which will undoubtedly be the first of this kind in the world since the beginning of literary history to see the light of day and to be described systematically.
1

In doing this I am confident of provoking the apparition of similar recollections that will begin timidly to people the memories of my readers, or at least of localizing in their minds a host of sentiments, of ineffable and indefinable impressions, images, moods and physical states which will progressively become incorporated into a kind of adumbration of their memories of pre-natal life. On this subject the quite sensational book by Doctor Otto Rank entitled
The Traumatism of Birth
cannot fail to enlighten the reader really curious about himself who desires to approach this question more scientifically. As for me, I must declare that my personal memories of the intra-uterine period, so exceptionally lucid and detailed, only corroborate on every point Doctor Otto Rank’s thesis, and especially the most general aspects of this thesis, as it connects and identifies the said intra-uterine period with paradise, and birth–the
traumatism of birth–with the myth, so decisive in human life, of the “Lost Paradise.”

Indeed if you ask me how it was “in there”, I shall immediately answer, “It was divine, it was paradise.” But what was this paradise like? Have no fear, details will not be lacking. But allow me to begin with a short general description: the intra-uterine paradise was the color of hell, that is to say, red, orange, yellow and bluish, the color of flames, of fire; above all it was soft, immobile, warm, symmetrical, double, gluey. Already at that time all pleasure, all enchantment for me was in my eyes, and the most splendid, the most striking vision was that of a pair of eggs fried in a pan, without the pan; to this is probably due that perturbation and that emotion which I have since felt, the whole rest of my life, in the presence of this ever-hallucinatory image. The eggs, fried in the pan, without the pan, which I saw before my birth were grandiose, phosphorescent and very detailed in all the folds of their faintly bluish whites. These two eggs would approach (toward me), recede, move toward the left, toward the right, upward, downward; they would attain the iridescence and the intensity of mother-of-pearl fires, only to diminish progressively and at last vanish. The fact that I am still able today to reproduce at will a similar image, though much feebler, and shorn of all the grandeur and the magic of that time, by subjecting my pupils to a strong pressure of my fingers, makes me interpret this fulgurating image of the eggs as being a phosphene,
2
originating in similar pressures: those of my fists closed on my orbits, which is characteristic of the foetal posture. It is a common game among all children to press their eyes in order to see circles of colors
“which are sometimes called angels.”
The child would then be seeking to reproduce visual memories of his embryonic period, pressing his already nostalgic eyes till they hurt in order to extract from them the longed-for lights and colors, in order approximately to see again the divine aureole of the spectral angels perceived in his lost paradise.

It seems increasingly true that the whole imaginative life of man tends to reconstitute symbolically by the most similar situations and representations that initial paradisial state, and especially to surmount the horrible “traumatism of birth” by which we are expulsed from the paradise, passing abruptly from that ideally protective and enclosed environment to all the hard dangers of the frightfully real new world, with the concomitant phenomena of asphyxiation, of compression, of blinding by the sudden outer light and of the brutal harshness of the reality of the world, which will remain inscribed in the mind under the sign of anguish, of stupor and of displeasure.

It would seem that the death-wish is often explained by that imperialist and constant compulsion to return where we came from, and that suicides are generally those who have not been able to overcome that
traumatism of birth, who, even in a brilliant social midst, and while all the candelabra are sparkling in the drawing room, suddenly decide to return to the house of death. In the same way the man who dies from a bullet on the field of battle with the cry of “Mother!” on his lips expresses with truculence that wish to be born again backwards, and to return to the place from which he emerged. Nothing better illustrates all this than the burial customs of certain tribes, who inter their dead crouching and bound in the exact attitudes of the foetus.

But without requiring this categorical experience of the hour of death, man periodically recovers in sleep something of this artificial death, something of that paradisial state, which he tries to recapture in the minutest details. The attitudes of sleepers are in this regard most instructive: in my own case my attitudes of pre-sleep offer not only the characteristic curling up, but also they constitute a veritable pantomime composed of little gestures, tics, and changes of position which are but the secret ballet required by the almost liturgical ceremonial initiating the act of delivering oneself body and soul to that temporary nirvana of sleep by which we have access to precious fragments of our lost paradise. Before sleep I curl up in the embryonic posture, my thumbs pressed by the other fingers so tightly as to hurt, with a tyrannic necessity to feel my back adhere to the symbolic placenta of the bedsheets, which I try, by successive efforts more and more closely approximating perfection, to mould to the posterior part of my body, irrespective of the temperature; thus even during the greatest heat I must be covered in this fashion, however slight the thickness of my envelope. Also my definitive posture as a sleeper must be of a rigorous exactitude. It is necessary, for instance, that my little toe be more to the left, or to the right, that my upper lip be almost imperceptibly pressed to my pillow, in order that the god of sleep, Morpheus, shall have the right to seize me, to possess me completely; as he wins me my body progressively disappears and becomes localized, so to speak, entirely in my head, invading it, filling it with all its weight.

BOOK: The Secret Life of Salvador Dali
3.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Terminal 9 by Patricia H. Rushford
Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
Dream Warrior by Sherrilyn Kenyon
The Harder They Fall by Ravenna Tate
Easy Sacrifice by Brooks,Anna
Guardian Wolf by J.K. Harper
No Place Like Holmes by Jason Lethcoe
Pictures of You by Juliette Caron