The son of working-class parents, Jacques Prévert was born February 4, 1900, in Neuilly-sur-Seine. At the age of fifteen, having completed his primary education—a process he obviously did not enjoy—he left school and began to earn his living. He once, in a radio interview, confessed that, had the label “juvenile delinquent” been part of the vocabulary of the early twentieth century, it would have been applied to him.
Despite his distaste for school, Prévert read a great deal and was particularly interested in the authors of the Enlightenment and their ideas about the natural rights of man, as well as such distinctions as natural evil as opposed to human evil. Nevertheless, he quickly developed a distrust of great intellectual constructs and philosophical debate. His friendship with the Surrealist painter Yves Tanguy began in the regiment in which they both served in 1920, as part of the occupation army of Thessaloníki, Greece. There he also made the acquaintance of Marcel Duhamel, who would later become a film director. The three young men went to Paris upon their demobilization and established what they jokingly called a phalanstery (after the Fourierist communes known by that name) in the no longer extant rue de Château. Raymond Queneau, who thirty years later would write critical works on Prévert, soon joined them, and their house became a gathering point for the young writers and artists of the Surrealist movement.
A shared passion for the cinema prompted them to attend films daily, sometimes three or four in a single day. Prévert and his friends, including his...
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