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