Biography of Louis Aragon (1897-1982)

Louis Aragon.

Poet, Narrator, essayist, journalist and French translator, born in Paris on October 3, 1897 and died in his hometown on December 24, 1982. Author of an original and innovative poetic production that places him among the leading figures of the avant-garde, was one of the founders and broadcasters - alongside André Breton (1896-1966), Paul Éluard (1895-1952) and other great French poets of his time-of the surrealist movement, and one of the most influential in Western literature of the 20th century. He/She excelled, in addition, his narrative work - well is true that somewhat eclipsed by the brilliance of his lyrical-, as well as for his continuing work in political and ideological agitator, reflected in numerous essays and newspaper articles.


Belonging to a family of the class average who ran an Inn in the French capital, since his childhood developed an early love of the cultivation of literary creation, which prompted him to write a novel - published much later--when he/she was only seven years old. He/She completed his secondary education at the Lycée Carnot, and then undertook higher studies in medicine, a career that was interrupted in 1914, shortly after having started, owing to the outbreak of the first world war. During the international military contest, was mobilized that it exercised as auxiliary medical teams attending the wounded, which acquired enough experience and to begin to realize that the science of Hippocrates was his main vocation. However, on his return to Paris he/she resumed his medical studies, and in 1917, before having completed the race, began working at the Hôtel-Dieu, a big Parisian hospital where he/she served as an intern. Shortly thereafter, finally abandoned the legacy of Galen and devoted fully to writing, first as a journalist, and already in full furor of avant-garde, through its close relationship with other young writers such as the aforementioned Breton and Philippe Soupault (1897-1990), with whom he/she founded the magazine Littérature in 1919. In the pages of this publication, focused at first as the organ of diffusion of Dadaism, appeared, in 1923, that premature novel Aragon had written at the age of seven years, which was compared by the editors of the magazine - as a child prodigy-with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791).

Immersed, in short, in the main forums and literary Cenacle of Paris in the first third of the 20th century, Louis Aragon became known as writer thanks to a book of poems entitled Feu de joie (fire of joy, 1920), opera prima that pleasantly surprised the critics, which emphasized the creative audacity of the young Parisian poet and his commitment to destroy - even close to the Dada - aesthetic criteria from the traditional values of the culture and society of his time. A year after the appearance of this book of poems, his name returned to the shelves of bookshops printed on the cover of the novel Anicet ou Le panorama (1921), starring a painter, Bleu, representing in the midst of the anarchist spirit that gripped Paris in 1911, consecrated figure of a genius of contemporary art, against the poor and miserable Jean Chiprewhose work has been relegated to oblivion. Some critics have pointed out that the protagonist of this novel - pioneer, moreover, in the use of cinematographic techniques applied to the literary narration - embodies the parodic transcript of the Spanish painter Pablo Picasso (1881-1973).

Meanwhile, Aragon had signed up - along with Breton, Soupault, Tristan Tzara (1896-1963) and other young representatives of the cutting edge-the Dada manifesto, Charter of nature thereby giving a movement which, rather than by a specific and well defined aesthetic postulates, it advocated a transgressive and rebellious attitude towards any manifestation of traditional culture (well reflected attitude in all his followers extravagant behaviorswhich they threw eggs, rotten in the course of a conference or breaking the crystals of the galleries where works of art are little chords with the rupture of the vanguard line were exhibited). This theoretical inconsistency of Dada gave way to its fragmentation in other much denser in ideas and formulations aesthetic avant-garde movements, among which triumphed singularly surrealism, to whose postulates the young Louis Aragon - adhered to most of his fellow adventurers Dadaist-with overflowing enthusiasm. His new poetry was well reflected in the short stories that formed the volume entitled Le libertinage (profligacy, 1924), composed of fragmented episodes that are joined together in the manner of a pictorial collage; as well as in his poetry collection Le mouvement Perpétuel (perpetual motion, 1925), one of the most representative pieces of surrealist poetry.

Aragon, like the rest of the young artists and writers who in those years were consolidating such current, placed special emphasis on a psychic automatism which, led to the field of literary creation, served to express the real thought performance, to rescue doubts, desires, traumas, fears and other feelings that nest in the depths of the subconscious. In this experimental line should be placed the splendid fantasy story that also published in the mid-1920s, entitled Le paysan de Paris (the Paris peasant, 1926). Obsessed with the project of creating a new novel that broke all the traditional rules of the prose of fiction - for it was necessary to reject the account of a history (i.e. the narration) and the psychology of the characters (that is, the study of characters)-, Aragon became the city of the Seine in the central protagonist of this work, and set in its streets, parks and cafes that anxious pursuit of intellectual progress ruled by Liberation of consciousness postulated by surrealism.

By that time, continued to be fully integrated into - still troubled by any sequel to the forefront - Parisian cultural life, while already beginning to show some socio-political concerns which became patent in membership, with other many surrealist colleagues, the French Communist Party. This active militancy was the result of a belief common to them all: the revolution of ideas was only possible within the framework of a great break to renovate completely ankylosed social structures of the past. Following the publication of two new books of poetry - Voyageur (traveller, 1927) and Le grande Gaieté (1929) - and some factual texts - as traité du style (Treaty of style, 1928-), Aragon attended the 2nd International Congress of revolutionary writers, held in the Russian town of Karkhov; in 1930 There he/she met the Soviet author Elsa Bougmolova, better known by her literary pseudonym of Elsa Triolet, sister-in-law of the great Georgian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930), that should marry. Other notable Soviet writer, of Jewish descent Iliá Ehrenburg (1891-1967), Ukrainian praised Louis Aragon as the legitimate successor of Victor Hugo (1802-1885).

On his return to France, strongly influenced by this stay in the USSR, the Parisian poet renewed ties with Marxism and accepted the post of director of the Rotary evening Ce Soir, one of the main organs of expression of French communism. Soon after, collaborated on the famous number 3 of the magazine Le Surréalisme au Service de la Revolution, founded and directed by André Breton in order to delve into this ideological commitment by most of the followers of surrealism. The persecution unleashed by the French judicial authorities against this number led Breton to publicly apologize for the political content that had been published and to show their opposition to the Communist Party, withdrawal which aroused the ire of Aragon, who thereafter drastically cut their relations with the Surrealists. Integrated, a few days later, in the "Association des Artistes et Écrivains Révolutionnaires" ("Association of revolutionary writers and artists") - newly founded by Vaillant-Couturier and Jean - Fréville, surrendered with ardor to the defense of the social and political causes flagged by their Marxist ideology, and printed a radical turn to his literary style, embracing formal and thematic models of social realism which prevailed in the USSR. To make it well clear this clear-cut stylistic mutation, he/she wrote and released the famous poem "Front Rouge" ("red front"), which notably accused the influx of the poetics of the aforementioned Mayakovsky, and published, in the same vein, the persecuted poems persecuteur (pursued Tracker, 1931) and Hourra l'Oural (1934).

Consecrated, in short, as the leader of the "movement of the socialist realism", during the first years of the Decade of the thirties he/she traveled several times to the Soviet Union, where soaked new aesthetic criteria promoted after the Bolshevik revolution. Definitely moved away from surrealism, it undertook the drafting of a series of novels focusing on the conflicts socio-political of his time or in other historical circumstances that studied analysis using Marxist, stories whose realism was underlined by the general title under which were grouped together: "Monde Le réel" ("the real world"). Among them, notably the titled Les cloches de Bâle (the bells of Basel, 1934), Les beaux quartiers (the beautiful neighborhoods, 1937) and Les voyageurs de l' Impériale (Imperial travelers, 1942). This defense of his estetico-ideologica attitude was reflected in his essay Pour a Réalisme socialiste (by socialist realism, 1934).

Appointed Secretary of the "Association International of writers in defense of culture", during the war Spanish Civil is meant by his public support to the Republican side and participated in the II International Congress of antifascist writers, held in Valencia in 1937. Two years later, when he/she was engaged in the preparation of a new novel that would not see the light until the middle of the next decade, had to interrupt all its political and intellectual activities owing to the outbreak of the second world war, which led him to again wear the military uniform in the autumn of 1939. While it had already fulfilled the forty-two years of age, received the news of their mobilization with real enthusiasm, a sincere sense of patriotic fervor that encouraged him to fight in defence of his native France, by both the fact of feeling rejuvenated by this appeal. During the war conflagration, it experienced an unusual fertility poetic rapture, and wrote numerous compositions focusing on his two passions: his wife Elsa - that invariably devoted all his works - and its political commitment to the progressive left. Before going into battle, it became one of the charismatic leaders of the resistance, which used some of his poems of inflamed patriotic ardor - like the famous "legend of Gabriel Pen" - to boost morale of the civilian population, by its repeated radio broadcast; In addition, his verses were recited in the Comédie-Française, and learned memory by hundreds of soldiers that were reciting or singing by barracks, trenches and battlefields. He/She enjoyed as an immense popularity - arrived, even, to be acclaimed on occasion as "the only poet of the war in France" - when lived more risky military experiences, within the first French troops that entered Belgium - after the armed struggle in France - and undertook the courageous campaign of Flanders certainly extreme. Surrounded by the German army, troops in which militated Aragon became miraculously Dunkirk and took to the sea to escape their pursuers; After spending two days in England, they returned to France and landed in the port of Brest, where they went to South of Angoulême, constantly threatened by the skirmishes of the German army. Once in Angoulême, Louis Aragon was imprisoned by the nazis on the last day of the war, but a stroke of Fortune helped him break out of his captors and managed to flee with other thirty comrades in arms hidden in a truck convoy. Soon after, he/she was decorated with the cross of war and the military medal; by then, many of his poems of war has had popularized, converted into lyrics, by all France, almost all of them signed under the pseudonym François la colère.

In the newly liberated Paris, Louis Aragon, based on the popularity it had acquired during the war, was erected in one of the most prestigious and influential political and cultural figures. He/She resumed his brilliant journalistic career, deployed throughout his life in media as relevant as the Communist daily L' humanité - to which belonged for many years-Ce Soir and Europe, as well as other cultural publications such as the already mentioned previously or journal Les Lettres Françaises and Inquisitons - the self-styled "group of studies of human phenomenology" organ -directed by Tzara, Monnerot, Caillois and own Aragon. During his time as director of Ce Soir - newspaper that had been closed during the war for his attacks to marshal Pétain (1856-1951)-, he/she was responsible for a series of controversial publications that led to his prosecution, which was deprived of his civil rights for ten years. Elected member of the Central Committee of the party French Communist in 1950, from its privileged position of intellectual with direct access to the most prestigious journalistic stands of France triggered numerous attacks on other creators and thinkers who did not share his ideological positions, which led him to a handful of enemies and, ultimately, a considerable decline of recognition that is had shown him following his courageous participation in World War II.

Despite their firm Communist belief that had been awarded in 1957 with the Lenin peace prize, Louis Aragon denounced some excesses of Stalinism and, in 1968, publicly condemned the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia. Meanwhile, followed by deploying intense literary activity which continued flowing with ease by three genres that had been growing since its beginnings as a writer (poetry, narrative and essay), and left to the dessert an extensive legacy printed in which, along with its hundreds of newspaper articles, also scoring his brilliant translations into French of some works of Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) - La chasse au Snark (1928) -, Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374) - Cinq sonnets (1947) - and Tchinghiz Aïmatov - Djamilia (1959).


Two recurring themes--love and political commitment - give sense and unity to all the literary production of Louis Aragon, similarly who, in his daily life, his relationship with Elsa Triolet ("the most beautiful, the sweetest", which, according to the Parisian poet himself "floats one over the red mist of October") and his membership in the ranks of communism ruled all his actionsto consolidate a solid ideologico-sentimental harmony that is unmatched in the history of Western literature of the 20th century.

Poetic work.

In its first stages, the verses of young Aragon accuse a noticeable influence of the great masters of the symbolism, and in particular the work of Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898). Soon after, his glare to the proposed ground-breaking and offenders of the avant-garde led him to assume, in a first moment, the aesthetic postulates of cubism, where soon became that "State of mind" that was Dadaism, to finally assimilate the thematic and formal models of surrealism, in which reached the category of undisputed master and, somewhatGuide and mentor of the young poets who came from behind.

Following his break with the surrealists and their unconditional surrender to the social realism imposed by critics and writers Marxists, his poetry of maturity - so important or more than in its first stage - is was nurturing little by little sentimental and romantic elements linked to simple and everyday of the man in the street, affectivity to while he/she stripped of convoluted games experimental to try to rescue the sense of the narrative that has always been shone in the popular lyric. With the horrors of war, Aragon enriched its recurrent theme (love Elsa and political concerns) with a series of circumstantial reasons (exile, hiding, deprivation of liberty, the fields of concentration, etc.) who were trying to raise awareness, and restore hope to the occupied people, wrapped in a simple and natural language which, with its vigor and spontaneitycame directly to the feeling of the readers. From that period date some of his most famous poems, as graduates Le crève-coeur (the grief, 1941) and Les yeux d'Elsa (the eyes of Elsa, 1942). In General, the tendency to the prosaic and the popular concessions present in this poetry of maturity of Aragon are offset by its return to the formal models of the classical legacy (perfect rhyme, syllabic computation, regular stanzas, etc.).

Aside from the poetry books cited in previous paragraphs, Louis Aragon gave to press other many collections of verses, which include the titled Cantique à Elsa (1941), Brocéliande (1942), Le Musée Grévin (1943) - posted under the "war alias" of "François-la-colère"-, En Français dans le texte (1943), France, ecoute (1944), Je te salue, ma France (1944), Contribution au cycle de Gabriel Péri (1944)The Diane française (1944), Neuf chansons interdits (1944), étrange pays dans mon pays lui-même (1945), the nouveau crève-coeur (1948), La naissance de paix (1949) - work in poetic prose, edited together with a poem by r. Descartes-Le pays des mines (1950), month caravanes et autres poèmes (1954), Les Yeux de la mémoire (1954), Le roman inacheve (1956), Elsa (1959)Poèmes (1959), Les poètes (1960), poésies (1960), Paroles peintes (1962), Le fou d'Elsa (1963), Il ne m 'Paris est d' Elsa (1964), Le voyage de Hollande et autres poèmes (1964) and Elegie a Pablo Neruda (1966).


Les cloches de Bâle (the bells of Basel, 1933) - first installment of this series of novels that are embedded in the aesthetic and ideological tenets of socialist realism, and grouped under the collective title of "monde Le réel" ("the real world") - is set in the Paris of the years prior to World War I, convulsed by Marxism and anarchism. With the taxi drivers strike as a backdrop, parade through its different pages human types from all social classes (financial lenders, workers, political agitators...), whose adventures underscore the political concerns of the author. In the midst of all these figures taken directly from the daily life, the role of three female characters stands: Diana and Catherine - bodies of fiction - and Clara Zetkin (1857-1933) - the German feminist who played a relevant role within the Communist Party for his nation.

Les beaux quartiers (the beautiful neighborhoods, 1937) is led by the brothers, Edmond and Armand Barbentane, sons of the Mayor of Serienne-le-Vieux, a small town near Marseille. After the initial presentation of a provincial atmosphere charged with traditional remoras (localist hypocrisy, clerical intransigence, grasping blind the chauvinist spirit...), Edmond, following the designs of his family, moved to Paris to study medicine. There it enters in contact with small Catholic groups working at the service of industrial capitalism, in order to infiltrate among the workers and thwart the strikes. In his inexperience, Edmond soon falls victim of the social fabric that surrounds him: it is used by the mistress of a wealthy industrialist, abandoned her university studies tempted by the world of finance and a disastrous adventure in the underworld of the clandestine game. Meanwhile, the life of his brother Armand has not run better: expelled from the family home by his amorous scandals, arrived in Paris not just economic resources and comes into contact with the criminal underworld and prostitution. Events that presence during his progressive social degradation - such as the murder of a worker or the proletarian celebration of the anniversary of the Paris Commune, to the arrogance of his brother Edmond - who has, finally, become a hollow in the sphere of power financial - take you to shed its Christian education and to sympathize with the political demands of less privileged classes.

Les Voyageurs de l' Impériale (Imperial travelers, 1942) - for many, the masterpiece of Louis Aragon - tells the story of Pierre Mercadier, a Professor of history at a provincial Institute, who, beside his wife Paulette d' Ambérieux, leads a grey and monotonous life in the region of Les Landes. Its weariness is emphasized even more when her lover leaves him, once her daughter tried to commit suicide after having discovered together. The protagonist, who by his restless and sentimental spirit should have chosen a life of action, only manages to escape from the suffocating atmosphere around him through his excessive fondness for the stock market, for the fascination aroused by the figure of John Law, the inventor of the papel-moneda, on which Pierre Mercadier prepares a book that will never publish. After being blasted with a bad investment in the shares of the Panama Canal, the actor disappears from his home without a trace and undertakes a dizzying adventure that, through lovers and casinos, will end up in your complete physical and moral degeneration. At the end of the work, elder and paralytic, survive in Paris thanks to the unusual efforts of Monsieur Tavernier, the owner of a bar. At the same time, the reader has been knowing the respective adventures of the characters that they have gone crossing on the road from Pierre Mercadier, adventures that allow Aragon to rebuild the major historical events of the Europe of late 19th century and the beginning of the following century.

After World War II, Louis Aragon momentarily moved away from socialist realism with the publication of Aurélien (1945), a strange novel of love in which the Parisian writer tried to offer their particular psychological analysis of passion. Aurélien Leurtillois, the character who gives title to the work, known in 1921, at thirty-one years of age, Berenice, wife of a chemical of provinces and the industrialist Edmond Barbentane premium, that he/she had fought in the trenches alongside the protagonist during the first world war. Aurélien and Berenice fall in love, but circumstances prevent again and again that they can happily share their passion. While Berenice strikes up an affair with a young poet who is wounded in a street incident, Aurélien ruins dragged by the collapse of his friend Barbentane industry; However, the protagonist manages to straighten the economic lifetime course an advantageous marriage. Within a few years, in full German occupation, Aurélien and Berenice meet again; but the impossibility of his love is finally sealed when a bullet fired by Nazi troops through the arm of the man and mortally wounds his beloved. In the midst of this fantastic loving adventure - certainly strange throughout the prose of Aragon-, shines with singular brilliance the description of the active and bustling Paris of the surrealists, journey through some real characters--such as Claude Monet, Picasso, Cocteau and Diaghilev - that is entrecuzan with fictional entities.

Four years after the "hiatus" in the literature of commitment that he/she had supposed Aurélien, Louis Aragon returned with renewed vigor to socialist realism through the five volumes shaping his monumental narrative entitled Les communistes (Communists, 1949-1951), whose action, which began in February 1939, intended to cover all aspects of life in France during World War II. Their novelistic production is completed with other minor titles as Le neveu de M. Duval (1958), La Semaine Sante (Holy week, 1958), her mise à mort (condemned to death, 1965), Blanche ou l'oubli (Blanche or oblivion, 1967) and Theatre/roman (theatre/novel, 1974). It was also the author of a book of short stories entitled Le lie-vrai (the lie-truth, 1980).


Cultural, social and political concerns that have always animated to Aragon prompted you to leave embodied his ideas in a huge collection of factual texts that placed the Parisian writer among the most influential authors of European intellectuals of his time. In addition to Le libertinage (1924), traité du Style (1938) and Pour a Réalisme socialiste (1934) - works already cited above-, notably his other reflective texts as aventures Les de Télémaque (1922), Les plaisirs of the capitale (1923), Une vague de rêves (1924), La peinture au defi (1930), Le Témoin des martyrs (1942), Le crime contre l'esprit (1943), Matisse in France (1943), Les bons voisins (1943) - published under the pseudonym of "Saint-Roman Arnaud" - Servitude et grandeur des Français (1945), Saint-Pol-Roux ou l'espoir (1945), L'homme communiste I (1946), Enseigne de Gersaint (1946), Apologie du luxe (1946), Chroniques du bel canto (1947), Diana (1947), La culture et les hommes (1947), La Lumière et paix (1950), l'art et le sentiment national (1951), Avez-vous lu Victor Hugo? (1952), Hugo, poète réaliste (1952), l'exemple de Courbert (1952), the vrai liberté of culture (1952), Les Egmonts d'aujourd 'hui s' s'appellent André Stil (1952), L'homme communiste II (1953), La Lumière de Stendhal (1954), l'art de parti en France (1954), Littératures soviétiques (1955), Journal d'une Poésie nationale (1955), Introduction aux littératures soviétiques (1956), Entretiens sur le Musée de Dresden (1957) - written in collaboration with Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) -Il faut appeler les choses par leur nom (1959), L' a ne va pas sans l'autre (1959), Entretiens avec Francis Crémieux (1964), Les collages (1965) and Shakespeare (1965).