Chance Encounters: Flâneur and Détraquée in Breton’s Nadja

  • Victor Burgin


[N]ous sommes tous plus ou moins des psychotiques guéris (Octave Mannoni, ‘La Part du Jeu’)

About two-thirds of the way through his book Nadja, Breton describes meeting Nadja in a restaurant. The clumsy behaviour of a waiter prompts her to tell an anecdote about an exchange she had, earlier in the day, with a ticket collector in a Métro station. Clutching a new ten-franc piece in her hand, Nadja asks the man who punches her ticket: ‘Head or tails?’ To which the man replies ‘Tails’ and adds, indicating perhaps a vocation as a psychoanalyst: ‘You were wondering, Mademoiselle, if you would be seeing your friend just now.’ No one would suppose that Nadja is going down the Métro for nothing but, as the ticket-collector discerned, she is not necessarily aware of what she hopes to find there. There is more to our wanderings in the city than urban planners take into account.


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© Macmillan Publishers Limited 1995

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  • Victor Burgin

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