The Manless Society

Rose of Four Winds-Yves Tanguy 1950

The son of a tailor and rabbi, Pierre Unik was one the most militant Communists of the Surrealist group and edited the Party’s journal for children. The author of two collections of poetry he also wrote the screenplay for Bunuel’s Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan (Land Without Bread). Bunuel in his autobiography My Last Sigh describes Unik ‘as a marvellous young man, brilliant and fiery.’

In February 1945 Unik escaped from a concentration camp to avoid a forced march and to meet the advancing Russian troops. After avoiding re-capture Pierre Unik disappears completely.

The Manless Society

Morning trickles over the bruised vegetables
like a drop of sweat over the lines of my hand
I crawl over the ground
with stem and wrinkled mouth
the sun swells into the canals of monstrous leaves
which recover cemeteries harbours houses
with the same sticky green zeal
then with disturbing intensity there passes through my mind
the absurdity of human groupings
in these lines of closely packed houses
like the pores of the skin
in the poignant void of terrestrial space
I hear the crying of birds of whom it used to be said
that they sang and implacable resembled stones
I see flocks of houses munching the pith of the air
factories which sing as birds once sang
roads which lose themselves in harvests of salt
pieces of sky which become dry on verdigris moss
a pulley’s creaking tells us that a bucket rises in a well
it is full of limpid blood
which evaporates in the sun
nothing else will trouble this circuit on the ground
until evening
which trembles under the form of an immense pinned butterfly
at the entrance of a motionless station.

Translation: David Gascoyne

20 thoughts on “The Manless Society

  1. The Manless Society – because of the suppression of the individual in a communist society? Or I’m way off? I wonder what became of Pierre! I am intrigued/preoccupied with idea of disappearing. This was excellent! One of those “now I need to know more” posts.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think Unik there here is how automation will make humanity redundant and also the effect that man has had on the world, I could be way off. He was declared dead in 1957, it is was winter time in what was then Czechoslovakia. But I often wonder what happened to him. Very little is written about him, Luis Bunuel was a good friend and the comments come from his autobiography from the 70’s where he laments that Pierre was completely forgotten.

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      1. Interesting how we work even harder and longer despite all this technology… wonder what Pierre would think. On the other hand, he was probably thinking beyond the simple realm of work and leisure. I have such a love/hate relationship with the modern world. On one hand it makes the world a smaller place. It allows the community of like minded people to meet and share ideas at the blink of an eye. And yet it has created this world where we are never disconnected from “work” – I highly esteem my leisure time… And as for me I am going to imagine Pierre living to a grand old age in some remote location with books and a beautiful woman to love him.

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  2. “Rose of Four Winds”, is a brilliant painting by Yves Tanguy. It’s disturbing and accompanies, “The Manless Society” quite well. Really how significant are we? Better question, how insignificant are we? Are we just the blobs of an ill-shaped society? Wonderful and thought-provoking post Mr. Cake. ~ Miss Cranes

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    1. Thank you. I haven’t written any poetry for a while so I thought I would include much better poets than me. Unik and Tanguy were friends before the whole question of how communist were the surrealists reared its head and so I thought it was an appropriate image plus it seemed to a vision of a man less society. Thank you as always Miss Cranes

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  3. I agree with the above: painting and verse work well together. Congratulations. I really like “factories which sing as birds once sang’ … I hadn’t thought of it that way before … but it certainly works … for me … at least. Thank ou once more.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. There are many things I would like to take credit for … however, we are linked to who we are and what we do … unless, of course … but we aren’t … and so … we remain within our limitations. I have just finished text #7 for Amazon. I am exhausted.


    1. Lee Miller-Man Ray 1929Robert Desnos was in many ways the archetypal surrealist spirit. Involved in Paris Dada he was in the literary vanguard of …
      I Have So Often Dreamed Of You
      poetry,robert desnos,andre breton,un cadavre,love,geaorges bataille,man ray,dreams,free verse,WWII,lee miller,documents -this is another post about another poet tragically claimed by the holocaust. Thank you for your comments

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The inhumanity of man is reflected in this painting, the faceless man all grouped together is shown in the horrific – cold – disease ridden – fearful – dreadful conditions of the concentration camps.

    Liked by 1 person

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