Paul Éluard

Last updated
Paul Éluard
Eluard Harcourt 1945.jpg
Éluard c.1911
BornEugène Émile Paul Grindel
(1895-12-14)14 December 1895
Saint-Denis, France
Died18 November 1952(1952-11-18) (aged 56)
Charenton-le-Pont, France
Period20th century
Literary movement Surrealism
Gala Dalí
(m. 1917;div. 1929)

Maria Benz (Nusch)
(m. 1934;d. 1946)

Dominique Lemort
(m. 1951)

Signature Signature Paul Eluard.svg

Paul Éluard (French:  [elɥar] ), born Eugène Émile Paul Grindel ( [ɡʁɛ̃dɛl] ; 14 December 1895 – 18 November 1952), was a French poet and one of the founders of the surrealist movement.

Surrealism International cultural movement that began in the early 1920s

Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for its visual artworks and writings. Artists painted unnerving, illogical scenes with photographic precision, created strange creatures from everyday objects, and developed painting techniques that allowed the unconscious to express itself. Its aim was to "resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality into an absolute reality, a super-reality".



Éluard was born in Saint-Denis, Seine-Saint-Denis, France, the son of Eugène Clément Grindel and wife Jeanne-Marie née Cousin. His father was an accountant when Paul was born but soon opened a real estate agency. His mother was a seamstress. Around 1908, the family moved to Paris, rue Louis Blanc. Éluard attended the local school in Aulnay-sous-Bois before obtaining a scholarship to attend the Ecole Superieure de Colbert. At the age of 16, he contracted tuberculosis, interrupted his studies, and remained hospitalized until April 1914 in the Clavadel sanatorium near Davos.

Saint-Denis, Seine-Saint-Denis Subprefecture and commune in Île-de-France, France

Saint-Denis is a commune in the northern suburbs of Paris, France. It is located 9.4 km (5.8 mi) from the centre of Paris. Saint-Denis is a subprefecture of the department of Seine-Saint-Denis, being the seat of the arrondissement of Saint-Denis.

Aulnay-sous-Bois Commune in Île-de-France, France

Aulnay-sous-Bois is a commune in the Seine-Saint-Denis department in the Île-de-France region in the north-eastern suburbs of Paris, France. It is located 13.9 km (8.6 mi) from the Kilometre zero.

Tuberculosis Infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease usually caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) bacteria. Tuberculosis generally affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. Most infections do not have symptoms, in which case it is known as latent tuberculosis. About 10% of latent infections progress to active disease which, if left untreated, kills about half of those affected. The classic symptoms of active TB are a chronic cough with blood-containing mucus, fever, night sweats, and weight loss. It was historically called "consumption" due to the weight loss. Infection of other organs can cause a wide range of symptoms.

There he met a young Russian girl of his age, Helena Diakonova, whom he nicknamed Gala. He confided in her of his dream of becoming a poet, of his admiration for “poets dead of hunger, sizzling dreams” and of his parents’ disapproval. She wrote to him that “you will become a great poet”. They became inseparable. She believed in him and gave him confidence and encouragement and provided him with the sense of security he needed to write. She listened and was involved in the creation of his verses. She became his muse and the critic, always honest, and told him which images she preferred, which verses she disliked. He was then particularly inspired by Walt Whitman [ citation needed ]. In Clavadel, Éluard also met the Brazilian poet Manuel Bandeira. They became friends during their hospitalization in the sanatorium, and kept in touch by mail after returning to their respective countries. [1]

Gala Dalí wife of, first, Paul Éluard, then Salvador Dalí

Gala Dalí, Marquis of Dalí de Púbol, usually known simply as Gala, was the Russian wife of poet Paul Éluard and later of artist Salvador Dalí, who were both prominent in surrealism. She also inspired many other writers and artists.

Walt Whitman American poet, essayist, and journalist

Walt Whitman was an American poet, essayist, and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse. His work was controversial in its time, particularly his poetry collection Leaves of Grass, which was described as obscene for its overt sensuality. Whitman's own life came under scrutiny for his presumed homosexuality.

In April 1914, Paul Éluard and Gala were both declared healthy again and sent home, to Paris and Moscow respectively. The separation was brutal. Europe was on the brink of war. Paul was mobilised. He passed his physical and was assigned to the auxiliary services because of his poor health. He suffered from migraine, bronchitis, cerebral anaemia and chronic appendicitis and spent most of 1915 under treatment in a military hospital not far from home. Paul’s mother came to visit him and he talked for hours about his beloved, opening his heart to her and slowly rallying her to his cause. Her initial hostility towards Gala slowly faded away, and she started calling her “the little Russian”. However, Paul’s father, who had also been mobilised, remained adamant that she could not come to Paris.

In Moscow, Gala listened to no one. Her love for Paul gave her an unshakable faith that they would be reunited again. She wrote to Paul’s mother to befriend her and finally convinced her stepfather to let her go to Paris to study French at the Sorbonne. She took a boat to Helsinki, then reached Stockholm before embarking for England. Once in London, she took a train to Southampton before taking a boat to rally Dieppe, and finally took a train to Paris.

In June 1916, Paul was sent to Hargnicourt to work in one of the military evacuation hospital, 10 kilometres from the front line. The ‘poet’ was given a chair, a desk and a pen to painfully write to the families of the dead and the wounded. He wrote more than 150 letters a day. At night he dug graves to bury the dead. For the first time since Clavadel, shaken by the horrors of the war, Paul started writing verses again. Gala wrote to him “I promise you our life will be glorious and magnificent”.

On 14 December 1916, Paul Éluard turned 21 and wrote to his mother “I can assure you, that your approval will be infinitely precious to me. However, for all our sakes, nothing will change my mind”. He married Gala on 20 February 1917. However, he announced to his parents and newlywed wife that when he went back to the front line he would voluntarily join the “real soldiers” in the trenches. Gala protested and threatened to go back to Russia to become a nurse on the Russian front. But nothing would do, and for the first time Paul resisted her. “Let me live a tougher life”, he wrote her, “less like a servant, less like a domestic”. Two days after getting married, Paul left for the front line.

There, living conditions were severe. Éluard wrote to his parents “Even the strongest are falling. We advanced 50 kilometres, three days without bread or wine.” His health suffered. On 20 March 1917, he was sent to a military hospital with incipient pleurisy.

On 11 May 1918, Gala gave birth to a baby girl who was eventually named Cécile (died 10 August 2016). [2]

In 1919, Éluard wrote to Gala: “War is coming to an end. We will now fight for happiness after having fought for Life”. Waiting to be sent home, he published "Duty and Anxiety" and "Little Poems for Peace". Following the advice of his publisher, he sent the poems to various personalities of the literary world who took a stand against the war. Gala helped him to prepare and send the letters. In 1919, Jean Paulhan, an eminent academic and writer, responded to his letter expressing his admiration. He referred him to three young writers who had started a new journal called Literature. He encouraged Paul to go and meet them.

Jean Paulhan French writer

Jean Paulhan was a French writer, literary critic and publisher, director of the literary magazine Nouvelle Revue Française (NRF) from 1925 to 1940 and from 1946 to 1968. He was a member of the Académie française. He was born in Nîmes (Gard) and died in Paris.

The three young poets Jean Paulhan recommended to Paul were André Breton, Philippe Soupault and Louis Aragon.

The meeting with Paul took place in March 1919. Paul was intimidated. He was shy and blushing. He was still a soldier and wearing his war uniform. It was the best omen for the three poets, who all showed great courage during the war. Paul brought with him his poems and read them to the ‘jury’. They were seduced by the young man and liked his work. They decided to publish one of his texts in the next edition of Literature.

Wounded and scarred by the war [ clarification needed ] the four poets found solace in their friendship and poetry. Against a society that wanted to channel them into being good and useful citizens, they chose a life of bohemia. They refused the bourgeois middle-class aspirations of money, respectability and comfort and rejected its moral codes. They hated politicians and the military or anyone with ambitions of power. They rejected all constraints. Their ideal was freedom and they felt they had already paid the price for it. Revolted and passionate, they were looking for a new ideal, something as far detached as possible from the current political and philosophical programmes. They found solace in the Dadaist movement, which originated in Switzerland.

In November 1921, Paul Éluard and his wife visited Max Ernst at his home in Cologne. Paul had an immediate and an absolute sympathy for Max. Underneath the charm, Max, like Paul, was a man deeply revolted, in total rupture with society. Unlike Paul, however, he remained indifferent to propagating this revolt which he considered to be an intimate ‘elegance’.

Paul and Gala moved to a house just outside Paris and were joined by Max Ernst, who entered France illegally, using Éluard's passport. Jean Paulhan once more helped Paul by providing Max Ernst with fake identity papers. Paul, Max and Gala entered into a ménage à trois in 1922. Paul was torn between his love for Gala and his friendship for Max. He refused to challenge Gala, and spent his nights in clubs: the Zelli, the Cyrano, the Parrot, and Mitchell. Gala's well-being was still what mattered to him above all and he tried to forget his anxiety by drinking.

Éluard, depressed, wrote "Dying of not Dying". On 24 March 1924, Éluard disappeared. No one knew where he was. The night before he had had a worrisome meeting with Louis Aragon during which he confessed that he wanted to put an end to a present that tortured him. For his friends, Paul was gone forever. But Paul wrote to Gala and four months later she bought a ticket to go and find him and bring him back, locating him in Saigon.

Éluard supported the Moroccan Revolution, as early as 1925, and in January 1927 he joined the French Communist Party together with Louis Aragon, Breton, Benjamin Péret and Pierre Unik. All explained their decision in a collective document entitled "Au grand jour". It was during these years that Éluard published two of his main works: "Capitale de la Douleur" (1926) and "L'Amour la Poesie" (1929).

In 1928 he had another bout of tuberculosis and went back to the Clavadel sanatorium with Gala. It was their last winter together. Gala met Salvador Dalí soon after and remained with him for the rest of her life.

In 1934, Éluard married Nusch (Maria Benz), a music-hall artist, whom he had met through his friends Man Ray and Pablo Picasso.

The period from 1931 to 1935 were among his happiest years. He was excluded from the French Communist Party. He traveled through Europe as an ambassador of the Surrealist movement. In 1936, in Spain, he learned of the Franquist counter-revolution, against which he protested violently. The following year, the bombing of Guernica inspired him to write the poem "Victory of Guernica". During these two terrible years for Spain, Éluard and Picasso were inseparable. The poet told the painter "you hold the flame between your fingers and paint like a fire."

Mobilized in September 1939, he moved to Paris with Nusch after the Armistice of 22 June 1940. In January 1942, he sent her to the home of some of his friends, Christian and Yvonne Zervos, near Vézelay—near the maquis. Éluard asked to rejoin the French Communist Party, which was illegal in occupied France. Thousands of copies of the twenty-one stanzas of his poem "Liberté", first published in the Choix revue, were parachuted from English aircraft over occupied France. During the war he also wrote "Les sept poèmes d'amour en guerre" (1944) and "avril 1944: Paris respirait encore!" (1945, illustrated by Jean Hugo).

In 1943, together with Pierre Seghers, François Lachenal and Jean Lescure, he assembled the texts of several poets of the Resistance in a controversial book called The Honor of Poets. [3] Faced with oppression, the poets eulogised in it hope and freedom. In November 1943, Éluard found refuge in the mental asylum of Saint-Alban, headed by doctor Lucien Bonnafé, in which many resistants and Jews were hiding. At Libération, Éluard and Aragon were hailed as the great poets of the Resistance.

On 28 November 1946, during a stay in Switzerland, he learned of Nusch's sudden passing. Distraught, he became extremely depressed. Two friends, Alain and Jacqueline Trutat (for whom he wrote "Corps Memorable"), gave him back the will to live.

His grief at the premature death of his wife Nusch in 1946 inspired the work "Le temps déborde" in 1947 as well as "De l'horizon à l'horizon de tous", which traced the path that led Éluard from suffering to hope.

The principles of peace, self-government, and liberty became his new passion. He was a member of the Congress of Intellectuals for Peace in Wrocław in April 1948, which persuaded Pablo Picasso to also join. The following year, in April, he was a delegate to the Council for World Peace, at the conference held at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. In June, he spent a few days with Greek partisans entrenched on the Gramos hills to fight against Greek government soldiers. He then went to Budapest to attend the commemorative celebrations of the centenary of the death of the poet Sándor Petőfi. There he met Pablo Neruda. In September he was in Mexico for a new peace conference. There he met Dominique Lemort, with whom he returned to France. They married in 1951. The same year Éluard published The Phoenix, a collection of poems dedicated to his reborn happiness.

Grave of surrealist Paul Eluard in Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris Pere-Lachaise - Division 97 - Eluard 01.jpg
Grave of surrealist Paul Éluard in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

He later eulogised Joseph Stalin in his political writings. Milan Kundera recalled that he was shocked to hear of Éluard's public approval of the hanging of Éluard's friend, the Prague writer Záviš Kalandra in 1950. [4]

Paul Éluard died from a heart attack on 18 November 1952 at his home, 52 avenue de Gravelle in Charenton-le-Pont. His funeral was held in the Père Lachaise Cemetery, and organized by the French Communist Party, the French government having refused to organise a national funeral for political reasons. A crowd of thousands spontaneously gathered in the streets of Paris to accompany Eluard's casket to the cemetery. That day Robert Sabatier wrote: "the whole world was mourning".


Repetitions, with cover by Max Ernst, 1922 Houghton Typ 915.22.3605 Repetitions, 1922 - cover.jpg
Répétitions, with cover by Max Ernst, 1922

Related Research Articles

Max Jacob French poet, painter, writer and critic

Max Jacob was a French poet, painter, writer, and critic.

Blaise Cendrars French writer of Swiss origin

Frédéric-Louis Sauser, better known as Blaise Cendrars, was a Swiss-born novelist and poet who became a naturalized French citizen in 1916. He was a writer of considerable influence in the European modernist movement.

Nusch Éluard French performer, model and surrealist artist and second wife of Paul Éluard

Nusch Éluard was a French performer, model and surrealist artist.

Pierre Reverdy French poet

Pierre Reverdy was a French poet whose works were inspired by and subsequently proceeded to influence the provocative art movements of the day, Surrealism, Dadaism and Cubism. The loneliness and spiritual apprehension that ran through his poetry appealed to the Surrealist credo. He, though, remained independent of the prevailing “isms,” searching for something beyond their definitions. His writing matured into a mystical mission seeking, as he wrote: “the sublime simplicity of reality."

André Salmon French poet

André Salmon was a French poet, art critic and writer. He was one of the early defenders of Cubism, with Guillaume Apollinaire and Maurice Raynal.

Marcel Béalu was born in Selles-sur-Cher on 30 October 1908, and raised in impoverished circumstances in Saumur. He died on 19 June 1993.

Jean Lescure was a French poet.

Claude Esteban French poet

Claude Esteban was a French poet.

Pierre Seghers French poet

Pierre Seghers was a French poet and editor. During the Second World War he took part in the French Resistance movement.

Georges Limbour was born in Courbevoie on 11 August 1900, and died at Chiclana de la Frontera, near Cadiz, on 17 May 1970. He was a French writer. poet, and art critic, and a regent of the Collège de ’Pataphysique.

Charles Dobzynski was a French poet, journalist and translator.

Alain Bosquet, born Anatoliy Bisk, was a French poet.

Catherine Pozzi French poet and woman of letters

Catherine Marthe Louise Pozzi was a French poet and woman of letters.

Yanette Delétang-Tardif was a French poet, translator into French of Spanish and German works, painter and illustrator. She was a very productive and reputed author of poetry, however she appeared sometimes as a restricted poetess.

Valentine Penrose French writer and artist (1898–1978)

Valentine Penrose, was a French surrealist poet, author, and collagist.

"Liberté" (Liberty) is a 1942 poem by the French poet Paul Éluard. It is an ode to liberty written during the German occupation of France.

Bernard Delvaille was a French poet, essayist, translator and anthologist.

Lucien Scheler was a French author, poet, publisher, and bookseller who participated in the literary resistance against Nazism.

François Lachenal Swiss editor

François Paul Lachenal, was a Swiss publisher and diplomat, who since 1940 played a significant role in publishing the writings of the French authors during the occupation of France by Germany. He was member of the Swiss delegation in Vichy till 1944 and later till 1945 at the Swiss embassy in Berlin. Publisher of the magazine Traits he was son of Genevan politician Paul Lachenal, nephew of The president of the Swiss Confederation Adrien Lachenal and married to Johanna Bertha Caroline Otken. He is buried at the Cimetière des Rois in Geneva.


  1. BANDEIRA, M. Itinerário de Pasárgada. 3rd edition. Rio de Janeiro, Nova Fronteira, 1984.
  2. Trele6 (26 June 2018). "Cécile Éluard". Find A Grave. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  3. Vercors (2011). Le silence de la mer (in French). Klett Sprachen. ISBN   9783125915848.
  4. "Poetry is another of those values unassailable in our society. I was shocked when, in 1950, the great French Communist poet Paul Eluard publicly approved the hanging of his friend, the Prague writer, Záviš Kalandra. When Brezhnev sent tanks to massacre the Afghans, it is terrible, but it is, so to say, normal - it is to be expected. When a great poet praises an execution, it is a blow that shatters our whole image of the world." Carlisle, Olga. "A TALK WITH MILAN KUNDERA" . Retrieved 7 January 2014.Cite web requires |website= (help)

Further reading