The Marvellous Everyday

On the one hand, everyday life is to be castigated for its relentless monotony and deathly tedium. For instance in Nadja, Breton envisages everyday life as the vortex that will obliterate the marvellous: “She was sucked back into the whirlwind of ordinary life continuing around her and eager to force her, among other concessions, to eat, to sleep” (114-115). On the other hand it is precisely in the everyday that the marvellous is to be found. Such a contradiction should be seen as a feature of daily life itself, rather than the inconsistency of avant-gardist rhetoric, and it results in a project that is fundamentally precarious. If everyday life is both home to the marvellous and the negation of the marvellous then the job of avant-gardism is premised (in surrealism) on the recovery of an everyday (a marvellous everyday) that must be rescued from everyday life (the repressive everyday of modern bourgeois life). (252)

Quoting Humphrey Jennings of Mass-Observation:

“Concidences” have the infinite freedom of appearing anywhere, anytime, to anyone: in broad daylight to those whom we most despise in places we have most loathed: not even to us at all: probably least to petty seekers after mystery and poetry on deserted sea-shores and in misty junk-shops. (255)

Highmore, Ben. “Awkward Moments: Avant-Gardism and the Dialectics of Everyday Life.” European Avant-Garde: New Perspectives. Ed. Scheunemann, Dietrich. Rodopi, 200. 245-264.