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About Louis Aragon

This poet, essayist, historical commentator, anarchist, and man of letters was an important figure in the surrealist movement and in political thought.

Aragon was born to Louis Andrieux and Marguerite Toucas-Massillon. In order to disguise the illegitimate birth, the boy was adopted by his grandmother. At the age of 5, he dictated poems; at 6 he wrote his first text "Quelle âme divine!"; and at 11, his first novel La sorcière du Vésuve.

In 1913, he began to visit artists at the Salon des Indépendants. He received his diploma in the Latin sciences and in 1915, the philosophy diploma writing on the subject "Is there moral progress?" For health reasons, he was freed from military conscription and wrote that he was disturbed by the ill treatment of the German prisoners. At his mother's request, he studied medicine. In 1924, Aragon, André Breton, Morise, and Vitrac went on a "voyage of discovery" through the Sologne. That year, Aragon wrote the "Préface à une mythologie moderne," his "Lettre à Francis Viélé-Griffin sur la destinée de l'homme," and published Le Passage de l'Opéra and his surrealist manifesto "Une Vague de rêves." On October 11, Aragon opened his Bureau de recherches surréalistes. Breton's manifesto was published and the surrealist bulletin Le Revue was advertised with the note "The collaborators on this revue are dreams." With Jean Bernier, Aragon wrote the pamphlet "Avez-vous déjà giflé un mort?" In a letter to Bernier, Aragon -- a pure anarchist -- declared that at that time, he had little taste for the communist regime. In 1939, Aragon traveled to the Spanish border in order to provide aid to Spanish refugees. He also participated together with German émigrés and French intellectuals in a demonstration in favor of the "other Germany." He married Elsa Trolet on February 28 and they traveled to the U.S., where they were received by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and attended the League of American Writers conference in Carnegie Hall. Back in Europe, on September 26, Aragon -- clad in an officer's uniform replete with medals and decorations -- escaped with his wife into the Chilean embassy, where he ended his novel Les Voyageurs de l'impériale. The next month, Aragon was mobilized as a doctor's assistant in the 220th Workers Regiment, which he described as made up of "suspects, hoods, white emigrants, communists, anarchists without uniforms, or with armbands and police caps." At this time, Aragon approved of most of the actions of the Soviets and in conversation remarked "A safe man is a dead man, one can say of him that he spent his whole life being certain." Police raided his residence and seized documents, but Aragon continued to read his poetry in public and to speak his mind the rest of his life. His other noted poetic works are "Écritures automatiques," "Le mouvement perpétuel" (1926), "Persécuté persécuteur" (1931), "Élégie à Pablo Neruda" (1966), and "Les adieux" (1981). His other novels include Les cloches de Bâle (1934), Aurélien (1944), Les communistes in six volumes (1949-1951), La semaine sainte (1958), and Blanche ou l'oubli (1967). His narrative prose includes "Le Libertinage" (1924) and "La défense de l'infini" and his significant essays "La peinture au défi" (1930), "Le crime contre l'esprit (Les Martyrs)" (1944), "La lumière et la Paix" (1950). He also wrote many articles on art and politics that were translated by Lewis Carroll, Petrarch, Tchinghiz Aïtmatov, and others. His poetry has been set to music by Francis Poulenc (Deux poémes, 1948), Lothar Voigtländer (Bitte um Regen (Pray for Rain)/Ritual for two choirs and percussion), and Lino Léonardi, Georges Brassens, Léo Ferré, Joseph Kosma, Colette Magny, and Yani Spanos.

Paris, France
3 Oct 1897