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Robert Desnos (1900 - 1945)

Lifespan: 1900 - 1945

Related: French literature - surrealism - poetry


Robert Desnos (July 4, 1900 - June 8, 1945) was a French surrealist poet.

He was born in Paris. He was a bad student, but in love with literature and began publishing poems. He became a friend of Benjamin Péret and in 1922 he began practicing automatic writing, notably under hypnosis. He fell in love with the singer Yvonne George, but the crowds of fans also obsessed with her ensured that his love was impossible. He wrote several poems for her including those in his collection La liberté ou l'amour (1927), which was condemmned for obscenity.

In 1926 he composed The Night of Loveless Nights, a lyric poem about solitude, curiously written in quatraines like classics, more similar to Baudelaire than Breton. In 1936, he tried working a poem a day for a year.

Desnos was one of the most active members of the Surrealist group, the prophet of the movement according to André Breton.

During World War II Desnos worked for the French Resistance. He was arrested by the Gestapo on February 22, 1944 and sent to Auschwitz before being transferred to Theresienstadt. There he contracted typhoid, which killed him. His is interred at the Montparnasse cemetery in Paris.

Desnos' poetry has been set to music by a number of composers, including Witold Lutoslawski (in Les Espaces du Sommeil, 1975, and Chantefleurs et Chantefables, 1991) and Francis Poulenc ("Dernier poème", 1956). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Desnos [Oct 2004]

Eroticism in the cinema

"One of the most admirable factors of the cinema, and one of the reasons for the hatred shown it by imbeciles, is its eroticism," declared surrealist poet Robert Desnos in 1923. "The acts of these men and women luminous in the dark are stirring to the point of sensuality.... It is in this cinematic eroticism that one seeks consolation for everything that is disappointing in artificial, everyday life." --source unidentified


Robert Desnos, brilliant surrealist poet and ideologue killed by the Nazis, in a book significantly entitled Mack Sennett, Liberator of Cinema, emphasizes the essential:

We well know the madness presiding over his scripts. It is the madness of fairy tale and of those dreamers whom the world holds in contempt and to whom the world owes what is delightful in life. (16) [J.H. Matthews, Surrealism and Film, 1971

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