“There is another world and it is this one.” Sometimes it is attributed to Rilke, but most often it is attributed to the French Surrealist and Communist poet, Paul Éluard. Sometimes the wording is a little different: “There is another world but it is this one.”

Sometimes it is used to grace webpages about anti-globalization politics, but you can also find it adorning discussions of theology. But it is almost invariably given without a source.

After a tenacious bit of googling, I think I may have found the source of it, and after a bit of time in Bobst library, I can now give it some context.

It would appear that the famous line attributed to Paul Éluard, is a détournement by Patrick White, who used it as an epigram to his novel The Solid Mandala (1966). By détournement, I mean a found line, not only copied and corrected, as the poet Lautréamont practiced it, and as the Situationists theorized it.

White may have détourned it from this:

“Il y a assurément un autre monde, mais il est dans celui-ci et, pour atteindre à sa pleine perfection, il faut qu’il soit bien reconnu et qu’on en fasse profession. L’homme doit chercher son état à venir dans la present, et le ciel, non point au-dessus de la terre, mais en soi. Ignaz-Vitalis Troxler, cité par Albert Béguin dans L‘ame romantique et le rève

As you can see, the rabbit hole is still deeper. Éluard is here lifting a line from someone else, who is citing yet another.

This much I got from google. The above is thanks to the detective work summed up in a footnote in John Llewelyn, Margins of Religion, Indiana University Press, 2008, p. 452.

Llewelyn gives the source as Paul Éluard, Oeuvres completes, Galliamard, Paris, 1968, Vol. 1, p. 986.

Google Books refused to show me the whole page, so after a bit of hunting around, I found an actual copy of the Pléiade edition of Éluard. This quotation is sandwiched in between two others, from Feuerbach’s ‘On religion’ and Poe’s Eureka. Its part of a short piece which starts like this:

Physique de la Poésie (2)

“En 1910, un peintre, Picasso découvrit dans l’oeuvre d’un poete un nouveau mode d’inspiration. Depuis, les peintres n’ont cessé de s’eloigner de la proposés: des images n’accompagnent un poème que pour en élargir le sens, en dénouer la forme…

“Pour collaborer, peintres et poètes se veulent libres. La dépendence abaisse, empeche de comrendre, d’aimer. Il n’y pas de modèle pour qui cherche ce qu’il n’a jamais vu. A la fin, rien n’est aussi beau qu’une ressembance involontaire.”

Physics of Poetry (2)

“In 1910, a painter, Picasso found in the work of a poet, a new mode of inspiration. Since then, the painters have continued to move away from the given: images accompany a poem to extend the senses, unwind form …

“To collaborate, painters and poets want freedom. The abasement of dependence, prevents understanding, love. There is no model for seeking what he has never seen. In the end, nothing is as beautiful as involuntary resemblance.”

The poet Picasso is referring to is, according to the notes, Swinburne.

This short piece is from a collection of Éluard prose pieces called Donner à voir of 1939.

Its curious that this much-détourned line is probably from a piece by Éluard that is arguably about a kind of détournement itself. Picasso and Éluard are interested in ways poets and painters might appropriate and correct from each other without citation or quotation. Each takes the work of the other as raw material.

It is also curious that the line is lifted from a quote-within-a-quote. As if to say: this is how language works, by détournement. Or as Lautréamont famously put it: “Plagiarism is necessary, progress requires it.”

And curious also that Éluard put this borrowed bit of text in between others that address the ‘spiritual’ but in a non-religious way, by Feuerbach and Poe.

So far so good: but this bit of detective work does not explain a détournement by EM Cioran: “There is no other world, not even this one.” Or by Octavio Paz: “There is another world, in this one.” So perhaps this isn’t the definitive explanation. But perhaps, in the internet age, those are becoming more elusive rather than less.