as soon as people see breton's name on a book, they immediately feel indignation and privately exclaim, "the dictator of surrealism!" what they don't seem to realize is that, despite being a flawed and somewhat ambivalent man, he probably had more passion in his pinky than they do in their entire body. "nadja" is simply one more delightful proof of breton's genius and his infallible flair for the surreal, the mysterious, the mystical, and everything that is profoundly divergent. in this tale of intrigue and obsession he travels the streets of paris with a ghostly, clearly insane young woman who calls herself nadja, which is the russian word for hope. the most captivating parts of the novel are the bizarre and surreal conversations he has with her. even though he found her incredibly fascinating and almost an ethereal enigma, things start to turn sour between them and breton grows bored with her. at the end of the novel, nadja is put into an asylum after the police are called because of her incessant screaming and apparently incoherent behavior, some of which suggested that she was living in a world of hallucinations and irrational fears. we do know that nadja was a real woman and not by means some fictitious creation of breton's, and we also know that she came to a somewhat unfortunate end. it may be true that breton's behavior and attitude of indifference and deliberate ignorance about her truly wretched fate (she died of cancer, insane and completely alone) is indeed nothing to admire, but those who put too much emphasis on this admittedly accurate fact forget that while he may in a sense have betrayed her, he also made a truly admirable effort to make the world see nadja and those like her as no one has seen them before, and immortalized her in a book that is absolutely unforgettable and breathtakingly beautiful. breton was a profoundly hopeful and truly revolutionary figure who exhorted humanity, even while the second world war raged and reaped it's devastating results universally on all of mankind, to recognize the miraculous and wondrous nature of our very existence, however 'absurd' or meaningless some felt it to be after the horrendous events of the twentieth century. it is true that he occasionally goes over the top with his optimism, but his iron will and determination to fight 'miserabilism', the philosophical justification of human misery, at all costs can only call forth our admiration. his exaltation of the imagination as the highest of human faculties and the sole organ of man that will allow him to attain felicity seems to be verified by direct, concrete experience of life. as we grow older and we come to realize that sensual pleasure is a big part of life but essentially empty and hollow, our inner lives (hopefully) become more vivid and we end up spending more and more time there. breton knows this and wants us to cultivate it to the highest degree possible. don't be fooled by the 'anti breton' rhetoric and take a dismissive attitude toward him, because you'll be missing out on some of the most fascinating books (to my mind) ever written.