Sixty years after it was launched at Librairie Tranquille on August 9, 1948, the Refus Global continues to echo the undeniable polemical thrust of the Automatist project, which can be discerned at the core of the text itself. And so, in commemorating it today, we might at least pay it the tribute of a careful new reading. Indeed, the decades that followed the publication of the Refus Global may have dimmed its true impact, as the reading that gradually came to the fore tied the famous manifesto to the overall narrative of a nascent Québec modernity, by emphasizing the way it foreshadowed the Quiet Revolution. However, this historical contextualization, while accurate, risked relegating it to the background by virtually canonizing it, repeating the old mistake of failing to understand its real ambition.
The Refus Global thus still remains, perhaps, a “text we’re quite happy to talk about provided we obscure its essential meaning” (Pierre Gauvreau)—a hypothesis that is tantamount to acknowledging its enduring topicality, beyond the historical gains made by (post)modern society. Therein may lie the challenge that it continues to pose for its readers: to experience once again, in response to the most fundamental, and still-current, pitfalls described by Borduas, the drive to conceive thought that is truly “full of risks and hazards.