Robert Desnos

1900 (Paris) / 1945 (Camp de concentration de Theresienstadt, République tchèque)
Living in : Paris
Working in : Paris
Artist's webSite

Child of Paris, Robert Desnos was born on 4 July 1900 in the Halles district, the Paris of artisans and shopkeepers that was to appear abundantly throughout his work. His first poems echo his literary discoveries - Apollinaire, Laurent Tailhade, Germain Nouveau, Baudelaire, Rimbaud. Desnos joined the Surrealist group in 1922 and immediately made a name for himself with his exceptional verbal skills and his enthusiasm for experimenting in a wide variety of ways. In 1933 he entered a radio career, where his imagination, humour and warm words were to work wonders, particularly with the success of La Complainte de Fantômas on Radio Paris. Taken up by his radio activity, he neglects poetry. He published Les Sans cou in 1934, invented poems for the children of his friends and in 1936 forced himself to write a poem every evening. Mobilised in 1939, Desnos went to the "drôle de guerre" convinced of the legitimacy of the fight against Nazism. He became a journalist for Aujourd'hui, a newspaper that was quickly subjected to German censorship, but where he managed to publish literary articles that encouraged the preparation of a free future. From then on, the struggle was clandestine. Under his own name or under the mask of pseudonyms, he returned to poetry, the slang sonnets continuing, in various forms, the fight against Nazism, because "it is not poetry that must be free, it is the poet". The poet was arrested on 22 February 1944, first as a prisoner in the Compiègne camp, then deported and evacuated to Czechoslovakia in May 1945 under Allied influence. Exhausted by the mistreatment and forced marches, he died of typhus on 8 June 1945, with the ultimate comfort of being recognised by Josef Stuna and Alena Tesarova, two young Czechs who assisted the dying deportees.

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