Clinically speaking / by : Vincent BOUNOURE

Clinically speaking

[ Extrait de La Civilisation Surréaliste – Traces Payot 1976 – Pages 60 à 63 ]

The rule of our game organizes the interference of a continuous autonomous speech, produced by automatic writing, and of an external speech, in itself insignificant since it is a single word, isolated from the sentence from which it is extracted, that is,  from the largely unconscious context that produces it. These sonorous signs, have a different meaning in the text of the one who states them and in the stories where the other players must integrate them. For those who hear the milestone word, it acts as a disruptive element: as a firecracker that deviates the course by cutting the flow of spontaneous continuity; as an obstacle considered with impatience and that the verbal flow nevertheless has to carry by rolling it in its waves. One very rarely note a simple collage: a landmark-word stuck in a speech where it remains as a simple peg. Most often, it perfectly fits into the story and colors it with its own nuances. However, at a high speed of writing, the latter being measurable by comparison between the texts of the different players, the “disappearance of the subject” as reported by Breton (1) does not fail to occur and the milestones words are resorbed in the dusting of appearances. as if the subterranean spirit only spoke as dressed in Harlequin’s cloak.

But the player whose turn has come to provide a milestone word is in a more vivid irritation. He writes at a very high speed, he is swept away by the whirlwind, he has to tear himself away from the vortex. As soon as consciousness is caught in some delay, one may look as being good enough in this game of silent actors by pronouncing the last word that “came” at the moment when it is scribbled. As soon as released from the automatic narrative, this word, in the very moment when it is pronounced, interrupts it. The automatism fairy does not like being cut off. She stops talking. Having just spoken, one limits oneself to noting what came next: a sort of echo in the third degree, until the next milestone word. Or either, the guilt of being aware of a delay blocks the dictation. The fairy is desperately asked to do somethhing. Everything is motionless and she utters a word that is immediately repeated.

Does what a partner utters differ from our secret conversations? Where is the inside, and may it be opposed to the outside? This question is actually about the possible difference in nature between the generating mental image of automatic writing, in its canonical practice, and the image aroused by the hearing of a word from outside. Was not there some lightness to believe that, after doing all that was necessary to disorganize the automatic dictation by forcing it to assimilate “tossed in the air” phonemes , we could still get an automatic product? Did not Breton warn us against the irruption of visual images “disorganizing the murmur and that, at the greatest detriment of this murmur, and he admits, we have not always escaped the temptation to fix? “(2). Was there anything better than a superficial analogy between the verbo-auditory automatism of the dictation and the string of representations aroused by the hearing of a word and even the designation of a thing?

We were thus confronted with the duty of verifying an old induction the merits of which was not obvious: “The” inner speech”, wrote Breton in 1944, that poetic surrealism was pleased to electively  manifest and of which, in a movement of good or bad will , it succeeded in making a means of sensible exchange between certain men, is absolutely inseparable from the “inner music” which carries it, and very likely conditions it. How could it be otherwise since the inner speech as recorded by “automatic writing” is subject to the same acoustic conditions of rhythm, pitch, intensity, and timbre as the outer speech, although to a weaker degree (3)?” Let us admit it, our anxiety was prolonged, as long as we perceived as inherently inconclusive the identity of nature, in both verbal cases, of the inner speech and of the speech uttered in our ears by the other players. But it appeared to us that the automatic mechanism was starting according to the same process in both cases and that it was not more threatened in the second case  than in the first, by the parasitic representations, the visualization of the speech, the aesthetic of the sentence, or the concern for rational coherence.

The rhythm at which the words of mandatory use fall, defines a minimum writing speed imposed on all the players and which corresponds to the — as short as possible — organization, of the sentence which connects the successive milestone words to each other. It can be seen that the induced speeds, that can be evaluated by the size of the texts, are very diverse and can commonly vary from simple to double between the slowest, that is, the most laconic, and the most talky of the players, the ones to whom their own celerity grants the favor of long intermediate excursions.


But the as the speech was turning between the players and almost to their liking, we found no way to interpret this inductive rhythm and to measure its influence. As a result, extra experiments were required to deliberately alter the pace of the milestones. He who agreed on playing the “Dead” pronounced, at regular intervals, the words that he had previously secretly built up into a list. It has been found that the texts thus obtained are all the more succinct as the milestones words are delivered at shorter intervals, so that they are far from having provided the acceleration that was expected. With velocities greater than two words per minute, they appear as disruptive elements causing refusals and establishing a more or less definitive disjunction between the inner speech and the outer sequence of milestone words. At a speed of six words per minute, panic occurs, chaos sets in, the rule generates the blockages that it was intended to remove, the inductive rhythm is then powerless on the writing, the thread of which it hacks, that it slows down. and enslaves, that it reduces to an inert state in order to better drag it after itself.

On the basis of measurable criteria, we are led to admit that the inner cycles are autonomous and only come into composition with the outer cycles to the extent that they can accommodate their own periods, and create resonances between the waiting rooms of their essential songs. High velocities of the inductive rhythm reveal an incompatibility which does not in any way depend on the more or less promptness of the hand, but on that of the thought which is being formulated and which, when confronted with the rush of images, escapes and opens the way to a simple recording  receptivity. What is this critical speed, beyond which the inductive sequence ceases to mesh with the inner discourse and, instead of maintaining its flow, paralyzes its emission?

On many occasions, I have observed that it is from those of my friends that I know for being the most taciturn, the least communicative in the ordinary course of existence, that one may constantly expect the longer texts, and hence the higher writing speeds, provided they allow themselves to really play. It is quite easy to verify, as one can see, that the critical speed to which I referred, varies according to the personal complexions, if not even according to the hours and to the moods; it exclusively depends on the spontaneous rhythm. 

Could we force it or slow it down at our discretion,  according to what Breton recommends in the margin of the Magnetic Fields? This is — it must be admitted — what the Parallel Stories never have succeeded to achieve. In each one of them we observe a remarkable constancy of the rhythm, from the first to the last line. As if the first word had all the future for itself and imposed on everyone, among all the possibly allowed paces , the only one that shall be.



  1. En marge des Champs magnétiques. 
  2. Le message automatique, in Point du jour, 1924. 
  3. André BRETON, Silence d’or, in la Clé des champs, 1953.

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