Biography of Paul Éluard (1895-1952)

Poet and French Narrator, born in Saint-Denis (in the Department of Seine, Ile de France region) on December 14, 1895 and died in Charenton-le-Pont (Bosque de Vincennes, Paris) on November 18, 1952. Although his real name was Eugène Grindel, it is universally known by her literary pseudonym of Paul Éluard, taken from the surname of his mother (Eluard). Author of an extensive and dazzling poetic production part of the simplicity and simplicity of an impersonal tone to enter then the aesthetic postulates of surrealism and end up assuming a firm political commitment, is regarded as one of the leading figures of the French poetry of the 20th century and, without a doubt, one of the greatest of world literature poets.


Born in the bosom of a family of middle class - he/she was the son of an accountant-, his childhood was spent in different places in the North of France (like Aulnay-sus-Bois and Charleville-Mesieres), until his parents settled in Paris when he/she was twelve years of age (1907). In the gala capital he/she studied at the elementary school, and then went on to receive a secondary formation that was broken in 1912, when, because of a severe lung condition, had to move to Switzerland to be interned in a tuberculosis sanatorium, where he/she met Helena Diakonova - immortalized in the paintings of Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) with the name of Galaaffective nickname had given him Eluard-, which would get married in 1917.

Her early inclination towards the cultivation of poetic creation prompted him to publicize his first poems in 1913, written during his internment in Switzerland and sent for publication to different French literary magazines. Replacement of his medical condition, he/she returned to Paris in 1914, and the following year was mobilized and sent to the front during the first world war, in which fought from 1915 until 1917, but not stop writing new verses that were printed in his first collection of poems, entitled Le devoir et l'inquietude (duty and concern, 1917). The same year that the printing press gave its debut, Paul Éluard, married the aforementioned Gala and began to integrate fully into the forums and artistic and intellectual cenacles of the French capital, at that time strongly shaken by the emergence of many avant-garde currents. Hard experience in front him inspired his second collection of poems, poèmes pour la paix (poems for peace, 1918), characterized - in formal terms - by a simple and straightforward language, and based - as far as its contents referred to-in his strong antiwar convictions.

In the course of that year of 1918 teamed with writer nimeño Jean Paulhan (1884-1968), who was then editing the magazine Le Spectateur (the Viewer), and beside it and other companions of literary career took an active part in the Dadaist, stream avant-garde movement that was identified in those years up to the end of founding, in 1921, the magazine Proverbe, which published his poems and collaborations the most outstanding figures of Dadaism. Soon after, let itself be seduced by the overwhelming thrust of the surrealists and became co-lead, along with Breton (1896-1966),, Soupault (1897-1990) and Aragon (1897-1982), the prestigious magazine Littérature, the main spokesman for the aesthetic postulates of this vigorous movement of avant-garde organ.

Despite this full integration in the Parisian cultural life of the fruitful period after the first world war, Paul Éluard disappeared from Paris without a trace in 1924, when an author already was well known thanks to the publication of other books of poetry as Les animaux et leurs hommes, les hommes et leurs animaux (animals and his men, the men and their animals1920), les necessites de vie et les conséquences des rêves (the necessities of life and the consequences of dreams, 1921), Repetitions (reps, 1922) and Les malheurs des inmortels (the misfortunes of the immortals, 1922) - this last compound in collaboration with the German surrealist painter Max Ernst (1891-1976), which, like the own Eluard, had evolved from Dada to the surreal proposals. Since almost everyone was unaware of his whereabouts, it was believed that he/she had died and in some rotating and magazines from Paris came to funeral articles that mourned his premature demise; but the young and impulsive poet of Saint-Denis had secretly embarked in Marseille, in company of the aforementioned German painter, to start a long adventurous journey that allowed him to learn the India, Australia, New Zealand, the island of Sulawesi, Java, Sumatra and part of the American continent. After seven months of wandering invested in expanding their cultural knowledge and their vital horizons, it arrived in the port of Marseille aboard a Dutch freighter and returned then to Paris, to plunge fully into its dense creative bustle.

Always delivered to its absorbent poetic vocation, published in the mid-1920s new books of verses as Mourir de ne pas mourir (die not die, 1924), Proverbes my to gout de jour (Proverbs adapted to contemporary tastes, 1925), and Au défaut du silence (instead of silence, 1926), which was followed by the first compilation of poetry volumes that had edited until thenpublished under the title Capitale de douleur (Capital of pain, 1926) and considered, from the moment of its appearance, as one of the biggest initial stage of Surrealism works. Consecrated, in the end, as one of the visible heads of this avant-garde movement, it evolved with the greater part of his surrealist colleagues toward political commitment and, after joining the French Communist Party in 1926, concentrated its efforts in the direction of magazines such as La Révolution Surréaliste (the surrealist Revolution) and Le Surréalisme au Service de la Revolution (the socialism to the service of the Revolution), as well as in the drafting of a copious hectoring and subversive work. Not abandoned for this reason its febrile literary activity, reflected in new poems as Les dessous d 'une vie ou La Pyramide Humaine (1926) and défense de savoir (1929), as well as the second anthological exhibition of his poetic work, published under the eloquent title of L' amour la Poésie (love poetry, 1929). In those last years of the Decade of the 1920s traveled repeatedly to Spain, first to Barcelona and Mallorca (1927) and later to Cadaqués (Gerona), in the company of his wife and small daughter, invited by Salvador Dalí, who a year earlier had cited the work and the poetics of Eluard in Manifest Groc had signed with Sebastià Gasch and Lluís Montanyà (in whichunder the subtitle of Manifest antiartistic Català, demeaning the traditional Catalan culture in favor of the esprit nouveau and European modernity). Fruit of this stay in the lares of the painter from Figueres was the rapprochement between Gala and Dalí, with subsequent disagreements between Paul Éluard and his wife, who ended up leaving him in 1931 to join the artist. Furthermore, the poet of Saint-Denis had begun to get intimate since 1929 with Maria Benz (who christened Nusch), who would become his second wife in 1934.

Meanwhile, it was delivered to an intense work of political and artistic diffusion which took him to participate in all kinds of cultural events, including the drafting and reading manifests, the presentation of books, exhibitions of art, etc. At the beginning of the 1930s, along with his young disciple René Char (1907-1988) - which had publicly confessed the glare that caused the reading Capital of pain - and the great "pope" of Surrealism André Breton, published the collection of poems entitled Ralentir travaux (idle, 1930), which was followed by another collective book - this time, only in collaboration with Breton - entitled L' Immaculée Conception (immaculate conception1930), work of paramount importance to understand the aesthetic and ideological purposes pursuing the Surrealists. Creative fertility provided you, for the first five years of the 1930s, the publication of other books of poetry as La vie inmediar you (the immediate life, 1932), Comme deux gouttes d'eau (as two drops of water, 1933) and rose La publique (the public rose, 1934), who followed Nuits partagees (nights changes, 1935) and Facile (easy, 1935).

In the course of that year of 1935 was the Congress of antifascist writers Breton spokesman, and the following year travelled to Spain to give a series of lectures on an exhibition retrospective of Picasso (1881-1973), displacement which took advantage of friendship with some leading figures of the Spanish literature of the time, such as José Bergamín (1895-1983), Rafael Alberti (1902-1999) and Federico García Lorca (1898-1936). During that year of 1936, of intense activity in public life and literary of Eluard, he/she also visited some places in England, translated into French some poets Lorca - which contributed decisively to the consecration of the poet from Granada in France, and saw how out of printing several works: Notes sur la Poésie (notes on poetry, 1936) - written also in collaboration with André Breton -La Barre d'appui (1936) - whose title alludes to the railing that separates the Court from the public-Les yeux fertiles (fertile eyes, 1936) - containing his famous poem "Intimate", written during his stay in Spain - and the reissue of Les animaux et leurs hommes.

After the occurrence, the following year, l'evidence poétique (poetry, evidence the 1937) and Les mains free (free hands, 1937), Paul Éluard began to distance themselves openly surrealists and very pointed way, of his close friend and collaborator André Breton, whose radical evolution towards Trotskyism led to definitive rupture of relations with Eluard in 1938, year in which saw the light of other works of the poet of Saint-Denis as Quelques-uns des mots qui jusqu 'ici m' étaient mysterieusement interdits (some of the words that until now were I mysteriously banned, 1938) and Cours naturel (natural course, 1938) - containing his famous poem "Guernica"-, whose titles leave good patent removal of Eluard in respect to the surrealist aesthetic and pro-Soviet Communism. A year later, in collaboration with Georges Hugnet, founded the Journal L'Usage de la Parole (the use of the word, 1939), and published other two titles came to swell his already copious bibliography: Chansons complètes (complete songs, 1939) and Donner à voir (1939).

The outbreak of the second world war led to his return to the ranks of the Communist Party, its second military mobilization (which assigned, now, to a station of the Sologne, South of the Loire River) and, as a result of the signing of the armistice between France and Germany, their enthusiastic, risky and productive collaboration with the resistance, which was one of its most solid pillars. Delivered fully to this cause, it became the main link of the writers and intellectuals fighters (was at the head of the National Committee of writers from the North zone), secretly spread his poems of war and subversive writings, and was forced to continually moving residence, pursued by the Gestapo. Refugee, finally, at the psychiatric hospital of Lozere, its permanent political turmoil not prevented him from continued to press numerous titles during the international military conflagration, as Le livre ouvert I (the open book I, 1940), Moralité du Sommeil (sleep, 1941 morality), Sur les pentes superbement (in the lower slopes, 1941), Choix de poèmes 1914-1941 (selection of poems 1914-19411941), le livre ouvert II (open-book II, 1942), Poésie involontaire et Poésie intentionelle (involuntary poetry and intentional poetry, 1942), Poésie et vérité 42 (poetry and truth 42, 1942) - that it picks up one of his most celebrated poems of war, "Liberté", - Les sept poèmes d'Amour in guerre (seven poems of love in war, 1943) - work published under the pseudonym of Jean du Hault -Medieuses (1944), Le lit the table (bed table, 1944), wouldst de vivre (Dignos de vivre, 1944), Au rendez-vous Allemand (appointment with the Germans, 1944) and in April 1944, Paris respirait encore (in April 1944, Paris was breathing yet, 1945).

After the war, Paul Éluard began to be recognized and admired throughout Europe as "Ambassador of the new poetry", and in that capacity undertook a bouncy tour of recitals and conferences that led him to visit numerous countries of the old continent (United Kingdom, Belgium, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Poland, Albania, Hungary, etc.). In addition, he/she was appointed delegate of France at the Congress for peace held in Wroclaw (Poland), and was invited to give a series of lectures by various Italian cities in 1946, year in which he/she suffered a severe emotional blow by the death of Maria Benz. Consecrated, in the end, as one of the precipuas figures of mid-20th-century European intellectuals, his presence was required in any place in the world where an act in defense of peace, freedom, social justice and the independence of peoples, causes that are delivered fully during its last years of existence was held. In 1949 he/she was part of the French Committee sent to the peace Congress held in Mexico, where he/she met Dominique, who would become his third wife in 1951. One year elapsed since this new marital link, it traveled to Moscow as a representative of France in the solemn celebrations dedicated to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of Gogol (1809-1852) and the century and a half has elapsed since the birth of Víctor Hugo (1802-1885); on his return to France, followed by deploying his tireless civic and literary activity until, as suddenly as unexpected, an angina pectoris reaped its life on November 18, 1952, when he/she was in his Parisian residence of the Bosque de Vincennes.

As usual he/she came to be in it, Paul Éluard combined during the last years of his life his intense work of representation with its always renewed creative ability, that threw other fruits as seasoned as Lingeres légères (frivolous seamstresses, 1945), Doubles d'ombre (double shadow, 1945), Une longue reflection amoureuse (a long loving reflection, 1945), Poésie ininterrompue (uninterrupted poetry, 1946), Souvenirs de la Maison des Fous (memoirs of the House of the mad1946), le dur Désir de durer (difficult desire to endure, 1946), Objet des mots and des images (object of the words and images, 1946), Le livre ouvert 1938-1944 (the book opened 1938-1944, 1947), Le temps déborde (last time, 1947) - inspired by the pain that caused the death of his beloved Nusch-, Corps memorable (memorable body, 1947), Le meilleur choix de poèmes est celui que l'on fait pour soi (the best selection of poems is that (uno hace para sí mismo, 1947), Picasso à Antibes (1948), Voir (see, 1948), poèmes politiques (political poems, 1948), Perspectives (perspectives, 1948), Une Leçon de morale (a lesson in morals, 1949), Leda (1949), Hommages (tributes, 1950), Pouvoir tout dire (to say everything, 1951), Le Phénix (Phoenix, 1951), jarre it peut-elle être plus belle than l'eau? (Can the jar be more beautiful than water?, 1951), Le visage of les sentiers et les routes de la Poésie (the face of the trails and routes of poetry, 1952) and poèmes pour touts (poems for all, 1952).

Posthumously appeared other books collecting poems and unpublished texts of Paul Éluard, as Sommes-nous deux ou suis je solitaire (are we two or am I just, 1959), Sens of touts les instants (felt all the moments, 1961), Lettres de guerre 14-18 (14-18, 1962 war letters), Lettres de jeunesse, avec de poèmes inédits (letters of youth, with new poems1962), Dit force de L'Amour (called the power of love, 1962), poèmes (poems, 1962), Derniers poèmes d'amour (last poems of love, 1963), Le poète et are ombre (the poet and his shadow, 1963) and Les Frères voyants (the prophets brothers, 1966).


In its new poetic compositions, Paul Éluard uses a simple and refined language that despises the tinsel of rhetoric to emphasize the importance of a thematic area that, ultimately, becomes a constant that gives meaning and unity to all your lyric corpus. The core theme is none other than the conviction, by the poet of Saint-Denis, that it is possible to achieve happiness if you know overcome barriers which limit and condition the human being; and to exceed these limitations, Eluard is not better momentum than the purity of the passion of love.

Love is, indeed, the fundamental and recurrent theme in his first books of poetry, which investigate with clarity and sobriety - at times, from a detachment pointed by the impersonal tone of the poetic - I in the possibilities of development favored by the joy of an emotional relationship. Little by little, to Éluard goes deeper into the surreal aesthetic, the pursuit of happiness beyond the limits of the relationship as a couple to aspire to prosperity, well-being and the joy of the entire collectivity, in such a way that surrealism appears in the verses of Eluard as a revolutionary force that, in his proclamation joyful aesthetic and ideological liberation of manprogresses rapidly towards the happiness of the whole society. Hence the appearance of a civic awareness and political commitment, there is only one step: with works such as the fertile eyes (1936), Eluard leave patent their active participation in public life and their express wish that this pursuit of happiness undertaken by his poetic adventure necessarily pass through the resolution of the problems that affect the man in the street. At this stage of his work, the poetic self has already lost that impersonal accent from its beginnings to become increasingly closer and more immediate, more "committed" to the cause of that liberating revolution assumed by Surrealists.

Historical events in the decades of the thirty and forty years (rise of totalitarianism in Europe, Spanish Civil War, world war, invasion of France by the nazi army, etc.) emphasized the political and social commitment by the poetic voice of Eluard and left constancy, in his verses, of active militancy of the poet in all of the defenders of freedom causes, were already non - thus, v. gr., in his famous poem "Guernica", collected in natural course (1938) - or own - as well it can be seen in the poetry books that bear witness to their clandestine struggle by resistance, among which mention should open book I and II (1940 and 1942), poetry and truth (1942) and appointment with Germans (1944). This is the time in which the voice of the poet is closer than ever of the voice of the people; the moment in which the poems of Eluard claim outraged against the horrors of war and, in particular, against the German occupation and persecution, imprisonment and the execution of the resistance fighters.

In his last poems, as if it intended to close the cycle of his poetic career in the same thematic point where had started it, Eluard returns to joyful love exaltation, whose power and presence - as the poet - is made visible in all human beings and things around them. Throughout this extensive, I fertile and varied cyclical journey, Eluard style remained attached to his predilection for the direct and immediate, language based on some basic resources of folk, such as the exclamation point and the reiteration poetry. Their allegiance to the surrealist principles allowed that the best innovations of this movement - v. gr., writing automatic - were put to the service in the pen of Eluard, of that lyric voice set to underline its proximity to popular speech, sometimes from the purity and simplicity of his candor, and sometimes disguised as the same exalted robes that are glowing and pouring of the people rave.


DECAUNES, Luc. Paul Éluard (Paris: Subervie, 1965).

EMMANUEL, Pierre. Le Je universal chez Paul Éluard (1946).

MEURAUD, Maryvonne. L'image végétale dans la Poésie d'Eluard (Paris: Lettres Modernes, 1966).

PARROT, Louis. Paul Éluard (Gijón: Ediciones Júcar, 1973) [tr. of María Calonje].

PERCHE, Louis. Eluard (Paris: Éditions Universitaires, 1964).

J. R. Fernández Cano.