Biography of Yvan Goll (1891-1949)

Poet, storyteller, and French playwright, born in Saint-Dié (in the region of the Vosges) on March 29, 1891, and died in Paris on February 27, 1949. Although it happens to be the inventor of the term surrealism and the founder of one of the first periodicals which showed the word at his bedside, his poetic production - under the big "popes" of the current Vanguard-not can be framed within aesthetics and surrealist ideology, but rather in the artistic and philosophical trend called expressionism.


Born in a Jewish family originally from Alsace and Lorraine border territories, soon was orphaned of father, which prompted his mother to abandon the Vosges region and moved to Metz, city in which the young Yvan completed his basic training. At the end of these basic studies, he/she entered the Lyceum of Metz and studied with great use - along with the rest of the obligatory subjects - German language, language that came to dominate to perfection.

He had already served the twenty-one years of age when, in 1912, formalized his tuition at the University of Strasbourg, where he/she followed studies of law and philosophy and letters, matter - this last one - where you obtained the title of doctor. By that time, already driven concerns artistic and intellectual, he/she began traveling in different parts of Europe in which the new aesthetic and ideological currents were seething, with a special predilection for the German city of Berlin, where took part in the acts that consolidated and disseminated expressionism. Shortly after, before the violent outbreak of the first world war, he/she was forced to take refuge in neutral Switzerland to get rid of be mobilized (counted twenty-three years old when the contest began for what had been destined directly to the front).

Yvan Goll spent four years of his life (1914-1918) in the small Central European country, based first in Zurich, later in Lausanne and, finally, in Geneva. While Europe was bleeding in the trenches, he/she had occasion to establish contacts with many of the artists and intellectuals who, like him, had sought protection in Switzerland, among which include the French Pierre Jean Jouve - then known for his pacifist poems-, Irish James Joyce (1882-1941) and the Austrians Franz Werfel (1890-1945) and Stefan Zweig (1881-1942); and he/she actively participated in the most important cultural movements of the time, such as the so-called Demain ("tomorrow"). But not only their intellectual and artistic concerns found encouragement and stimulus in neutral Switzerland, but also his sentimental journey, since in 1916 he/she met in the small Alpine country Clara Studer, which settled in Ascona, on the shores of Lake Maggiore, after having contracted marriage. In this beautiful spot, Yvan Goll worked with filmmaker Viking Eggeling in the realization of the avant-garde film Symphonie diagonale (diagonal Symphony, 1921).

Finished the war, Yvan Goll returned to his native France and settled in Paris, where it was soon integrated into the Dada movement of Tristan Tzara (1896-1963), who had already had news during their extended stay in Switzerland. Shortly afterwards, following the same evolution that most avant-garde young people of his generation, he/she joined the ranks of surrealism, in which soon alternated with the large "popes" of this movement, such as André Breton (1896-1966), Paul Éluard (1895-1952) and Philippe Soupault (1897-1990). Moved, by then, a vast and careful intellectual curiosity that obliged him to be interested in any artistic manifestation with transgressive or innovative claims, did not remain restricted to the postulates of surrealism, movement which he/she had baptized in their ongoing discussions with the newly cited creators; rather, he/she repaired in other many innovative proposals which, at the time, took place in different parts of Europe (such as the Zeninismo of Zagreb or the Ultraísmo of Madrid and Seville, without ever forgetting that Expressionism in Berlin that had already captivated him before the great war), and became one of the best connoisseurs of the avant-garde and its various manifestations, as made evident well in his work Les cinq continents (all five continents, 1922). With the publication of this documented and valuable anthology of avant-garde poetry of the time, Yvan Goll put within the reach of the French readers trends and current innovative were developed, in parallel to surrealism, in different parts of the world.

It was, by then, a poet read and celebrated by his contemporaries, who attended a bright display of the creative potential of Yvan Goll during the decades of the 1920s and 1930s. At the end of the latter - specifically, in September 1939-, before the new international military conflagration that he/she threatened again to destroy Europe, crossed the Atlantic Ocean after a fleeting stint in Cuba, came to the United States of America and settled in the New York neighborhood of Brooklyn, where he/she would reside for almost all the second world war. Not, in these years of emigrant, interrupted his brilliant literary career, increased with new poetic deliveries; and not disregard its critic, researcher and cultural animator, activities now carried out from the pages of the magazines The Heart of Europe - whose French section was under his leadership - and, especially, Hemisferes, a bilingual publication (English-French) founded by the own Goll with the purpose of providing an organ of expression common to exiled in America during the war French writers and artists. To their pages loomed figures and works by some creators such reputable as writers Saint-John Perse (1887-1975), Aimé Césaire (1913-) and the aforementioned André Breton and the surrealist painters Gauls André Masson (1896-1987) and Yves Tanguy (1900-1955).

A year before the conclusion of the war, Yvan Goll felt sick and entered in the Memorial Hospital in New York, where doctors detected a serious leukaemic condition. From then on, his life was a constant pilgrimage of hospital to hospital, in search of some relief for this evil that everyone knew irreversible. After the war, he/she returned to Europe and returned to settle in Paris, but in 1948 he/she was forced to enter the hospital of Strasbourg, where he/she remained until the beginning of the following year. In January 1949 he/she was transferred, in effect, to the American Hospital in Paris, where he/she lost his life at the end of February. His mortal remains were buried, temporarily, in a modest grave in the Pere-Lachaise Cemetery, where they remained for six years, until its final grave in the same cemetery is enabled in 1955.


The poetic production of Yvan Goll, inaugurated during his stay in Switzerland in the Middle I Guerra Mundial, opened with the volume of verses entitled Élegies Internationales (International Elegies, 1915), in which patents were two of the features that would characterize his first literary stage: interest in Expressionism and the international vocation of their research and aesthetic proposals. His next poetic delivery, also published on Swiss territory, came conditioned by the horrors of the war conflict, which were inspired the title of this book of poems: Requiem pour les morts de l'Europe (Requiem for the dead of Europe, 1916).

Already in Paris, Yvan Goll interrupted his dedication to the poetic creation for a prolonged period of time to focus on their activities of critic and scholar of the literary fact, soon captured in its three sites, timely, valuable and well documented anthologies. It is Le Coeur de l'ennemi. Anthologie de poèmes contre la Guerre (the heart of the enemy. Anthology of poems against the war, 1919); Le Coeur de France. Anthologie de poèmes (the heart of France. Anthology of poems, 1920), and the aforementioned Les Cinq Continents. Anthologie Mondiale de Poésie (five continents. Anthology world of poetry, 1922).

In the middle of the first half of the 1920s, when most linked was the surrealist movement, Yvan Goll returned to the domains of poetic creation with Le Nouvel Orphée (the new Orpheus, 1923), poems which was followed by other three collections of verses, now written in collaboration with his wife, who had adopted the name of Claire Goll: Poèmes d'Amour (love poems1925), poèmes de Jalousie (jealousy, 1926 poems) and poèmes de la Vie et de la Mort (poems of life and death, 1927). The rest of his extensive lyric production consists of other titles such as Chansons Malaises (Malaysian songs, 1934), Metro la Mort (death, 1936 Metro), La Chanson de Jean sans Terre (the song of Juan sin Tierra, 1936), Deuxième Livre de Jean sans Terre (second book of Juan sin Tierra, 1938), Trisieme Livre de Jean sans Terre (third book of Juan sin Tierra1939) and Chansons de France (songs of France, 1940), as well as the posthumous poems d'Ihpetonga Elegie (Elegy of Ihpetonga, 1949), Le Char triomphale Antimoine (the triumphal chariot of antimony, 1949), Jean sans Terre (Juan sin Tierra, 1949), Les Georgiques parisiennes (Parisian georgics, 1951), Dix Mille Aubes (ten thousand albas, 1951) - written in collaboration with his wife Claire-, Les Cercles Magiques (the magic circles1951), Nouvelles Petites Fleures de Saint François (new small flowers of San Francisco, 1952) - in collaboration with Claire Goll-, Multiple femme (multiple women, 1956), Duo d'Amour (Duo of love, 1959) - with Claire Goll - and L' host (host, 1965) – also written with his wife.

In addition to this extensive lyric production, Yvan Goll was author of an interesting narrative work consisting of the novels Le Microbe de l'Or (the fever of gold, 1927), bas de l'Europe (down Europe, 1928), Sodome et Berlin (Sodom and Berlin, 1929), Agnus Dei (1929), Gala (1930), Lucifer vieillissant (Lucifer aging, 1934) and Le tombeau des amants inconnus (the tomb of the unknown lovers1941). In his copious bibliography should be scoring, finally, the theatrical pieces entitled Mathusalem (Methuselah) and Les Immortels (the deviledtrix), both printed in a posthumous volume published in 1963.


BOISDEFREE, Pierre. Les écrivains Français d'aujourd ' jui (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1965).

BOISDEFREE, Pierre. La Poésie française de Baudelaire a US jours (Paris: Perrin, 1966).

CARMODY, Francis J. The Cronology of Yvan Goll's "Jean sans Terre" (California [U.S.A.]: University Press, 1962).

CARMODY, Francis J. The Occult in you Poetry of Yvan Goll (California [USA]: University Press, 1962).

CARMODY, Francis J. The Poetry of Yvan Goll (Paris: Éditions characters, 1956).

DUBRUCA GALIN, Danielle. Contemporary French literature (Palma de Mallorca: University Press, 1988).

ORTEGA ÁLVAREZ, M. contemporary French poetry (1915-1965). Bilingual Anthology (Madrid: Akal, 1983), 2 vols.

ROMAINS, Jules; BRION, Marcel; CARMODY, Francis J.; and EXNER, Richard. Yvan Goll (Paris: Seghers [col. "poètes d'aujourd ' hui", no. 50], 1956.)


Related topic

France: literature.

J. R. Fernández Cano.