Surrealism – 3 (Lewis Carroll)

The King Reflecting in Court – from Alice in Wonderland – illustration by Sir John Tenniel

Continuing with the 1988 Naropa symposium on Surrealism, Jonathan Rabinowitz has a pretty much incontestable nomination –   Lewis Carroll‘s Alice in Wonderland

JR: “The text I shall read I present in an almost liturgical or ritualistic sense, not only as a text which (was) written by a precursor of Surrealism, but as an exemplary pattern on which a Surrealist..  bearing witness to Surrealism such as this might be held. It’s from the chapter in Alice in Wonderland  called “Alice’s Evidence”

`What do you know about this business?’ the King said to Alice.
`Nothing,’ said Alice.
`Nothing whatever?’ persisted the King.
`Nothing whatever,’ said Alice.
`That’s very important,’ the King said, turning to the jury. They were just beginning to write this down on their slates, when the White Rabbit interrupted: `Unimportant, your Majesty means, of course,’ he said in a very respectful tone, but frowning and making faces at him as he spoke.
Unimportant, of course, I meant,’ the King hastily said, and went on to himself in an undertone, important-unimportant- unimportant-important – as if he were trying which word sounded best.
Some of the jury wrote it down `important,’ and some `unimportant.’ Alice could see this, as she was near enough to look over their slates; `but it doesn’t matter a bit,’ she thought to herself.
At this moment the King, who had been for some time busily writing in his note-book, cackled out `Silence!’ and read out from his book, `Rule Forty-two. All persons more than a mile high to leave the court.’
Everybody looked at Alice.
`I’m not a mile high,’ said Alice.
`You are,’ said the King.
`Nearly two miles high,’ added the Queen.
`Well, I shan’t go, at any rate,’ said Alice: `besides, that’s not a regular rule: you invented it just now.’
`It’s the oldest rule in the book,’ said the King.
`Then it ought to be Number One,’ said Alice.
The King turned pale, and shut his note-book hastily. `Consider your verdict,’ he said to the jury, in a low, trembling voice.”

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately twenty-nine-and-a-half minutes in,  and concluding at approximately thirty-one-and-three-quarter minutes in.

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