Eugène Grindel Biography


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Paul Éluard was born Eugène Grindel on December 14, 1895, in Saint-Denis, a suburb of Paris. His background was strictly working-class—his father was a bookkeeper and his mother (from whom he took the name Éluard) a seamstress—and most of his early years were spent in the vicinity of factories in Saint-Denis and Aulnay-sous-Bois. Éluard was a good student at the École Communale, but later, when the Grindels moved to Paris and the boy was enrolled at the École Supérieure Colbert, his scholastic performance declined. His education was cut short by illness, and he was placed in a sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland, when he was sixteen. He returned to Paris two years later and almost immediately entered the army; his experiences in the trenches of World War I crystallized his growing awareness of the suffering of humanity. Suffering from gangrene of the bronchi as a result of poison gas, Éluard spent more time in a sanatorium, reading much poetry, especially the works of Arthur Rimbaud, Lautréamont, and Charles Vildrac. He also read Percy Bysshe Shelley, Novalis, and Heraclitus of Ephesus, and he developed a special feeling for Walt Whitman, whose Leaves of Grass (1855) he read many times.

In 1917, Éluard published his first book of poetry, Le Devoir et l’inquiétude. The following year, his Poèmes pour la paix was published, and he met Jean Paulhan, “impresario of poets,” who advanced his career. He also met André Breton, Louis Aragon, Tristan Tzara, Philippe Soupault, and Giorgio de Chirico—the writers and artists who would eventually become, with Éluard, the leading figures of the Surrealist movement. Surrealism, however, was preceded by Dada; Éluard, Breton, Aragon, Francis Picabia, Soupault, Marguerite Buffet, and others, according to Tzara, all took part in the public “debut” of Dada in January, 1920, at a matinee organized by Littérature, a Dadaist review. The spectacle caused an enormous uproar, and a week later, Éluard joined Breton, Soupault, and others in a public debate at the Université Populaire. Éluard began to publish a review called Proverbe, to which all the Dadaists contributed. Wrote Tzara, “It was chiefly a matter of contradicting logic and language.”

As Dada moved toward the more rigorous Surrealism, Éluard’s name appeared on various manifestos. His poetry changed as a result of his allegiance to Dada and Surrealism; under the influence of the Surrealists’ enthusiasm for “automatic writing,” his language became...

(The entire section is 1040 words.)

Eugène Grindel Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Paul Éluard (ay-lew-ar), born Eugène Grindel, was a principal figure in the early years of the French Surrealist movement and is one of France’s most beloved poets. Exemplary of deep compassion in the face of suffering and human adversity caused by wars and repressive regimes, he was inspired in his poetry by the love of his three wives. Éluard’s poetry radiates luminous imagery and describes everyday objects and events that take on profound meaning.{$S[A]Grindel, Eugène;Éluard, Paul}

Born in Saint-Denis, a small, working-class industrial center north of Paris, on December 14, 1895, Eugène Grindel was the only child of Clément Eugène Grindel and Jeanne Marie Cousin. In July, 1912, while vacationing with his mother in Switzerland, he contracted a serious pulmonary infection that forced him to enter a sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland, from the winter of 1912 to the spring of 1914. Thus, his studies at the École Colbert in Paris were interrupted. In Davos he wrote, read, pondered the creation of poetry, and met Helena Diakonova, a young Russian known as Gala, with whom he fell deeply in love. An avid reader, she captivated Éluard with her cultivated character and engaging presence. Éluard returned to Paris in the spring of 1914, and the two married in Paris in February, 1917.

Éluard joined the army in 1914 at the outbreak of World War I. The war experience, which had a permanent effect on his personal philosophy, inspired him to help those oppressed by military force, political power, or social constraints. A member of the medical corps and then of the infantry, Éluard witnessed the brutality of armed conflict. Already suffering from unstable health, he was gassed and would never completely recover. After his daughter, Cécile Simone Antonyle Grindel, was born in 1918, Éluard was posted to a military supply store outside Paris.

In 1918 he published Poèmes pour la paix under the name Paul Éluard, the surname of his maternal grandmother, taken as a pseudonym in 1914. The critical success of his poetry allowed him to begin frequenting Parisian literary circles, in which he met other writers such as André Breton, the author of Manifeste du surréalisme (1924; Manifesto of Surrealism, 1969); Louis Aragon, novelist and poet; and Tristan Tzara, the creator of Dadaism.

In 1919 Éluard joined the Parisian Dadaists and participated in the birth of Surrealism....

(The entire section is 997 words.)