Thursday 29 May 2014

The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World by George Prochnik

An original study of exile, told through the biography of Austrian writer Stefan Zweig

By the 1930s, Stefan Zweig had become the most widely translated living author in the world. His novels, short stories, and biographies were so compelling that they became instant best sellers. Zweig was also an intellectual and a lover of all the arts, high and low. Yet after Hitler’s rise to power, this celebrated writer who had dedicated so much energy to promoting international humanism plummeted, in a matter of a few years, into an increasingly isolated exile—from London to Bath to New York City, then Ossining, Rio, and finally Petrópolis—where, in 1942, in a cramped bungalow, he killed himself.

The Impossible Exile tells the tragic story of Zweig’s extraordinary rise and fall while it also depicts, with great acumen, the gulf between the world of ideas in Europe and in America, and the consuming struggle of those forced to forsake one for the other. It also reveals how Zweig embodied, through his work, thoughts, and behavior, the end of an era—the implosion of Europe as an ideal of Western civilization.
Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth, Ostende, Belgium, 1936

His Exile Was Intolerable
Anka Muhlstein MAY 8, 2014 ISSUE / The New York Review of Books /

The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World
by George Prochnik
Other Press, 390 pp., $27.95
The Grand Budapest Hotel
a film directed by Wes Anderson

On February 23, 1942, Stefan Zweig and his young wife committed suicide together in Petrópolis, Brazil. The following day, the Brazilian government held a state funeral, attended by President Getulio Vargas. The news spread rapidly around the world, and the couple’s deaths were reported on the front page of The New York Times. Zweig had been one of the most renowned authors of his time, and his work had been translated into almost fifty languages. In the eyes of one of his friends, the novelist Irmgard Keun, “he belonged to those that suffered but who would not and could not hate. And he was one of those noble Jewish types who, thinskinned and open to harm, lives in an immaculate glass world of the spirit and lacks the capacity themselves to do harm.”1

The suicide set off a surge of emotion and a variety of reactions. Thomas Mann, the unquestioned leader of German-language writers in exile, made no secret of his indignation at what he considered an act of cowardice. In a telegram to the New York daily PM, he certainly paid tribute to his fellow writer’s talent, but he underscored the “painful breach torn in the ranks of European literary emigrants by so regrettable a weakness.” He made his point even clearer in a letter to a writer friend: “He should never have granted the Nazis this triumph, and had he had a more powerful hatred and contempt for them, he would never have done it.” Why had Zweig been unable to rebuild his life? It wasn’t for lack of means, as Mann pointed out to his daughter Erika.

This is the subject of Georges Prochnik’s The Impossible Exile, a gripping, unusually subtle, poignant, and honest study. Prochnik attempts, on the basis of an uncompromising investigation, to clarify the motives that might have driven to suicide an author who still enjoyed a rare popularity, an author who had just completed two major works, his memoir, The World of Yesterday, and Brazil: Land of the Future. He had also finished one of his most startling novellas, Chess Story, in which he finally addressed the horrors of his own time, proving that his creative verve hadn’t been in the least undermined by his ordeals. Recently he had married a loving woman, nearly thirty years his junior. And he had chosen of his own free will to leave the United States and take refuge in Brazil, a hospitable nation that had fired his imagination.

Why had exile proved so intolerable to Stefan Zweig when other artists drew a new vigor and inspiration from it? Prochnik notes that Claude Levi-Strauss,

walking New York’s streets for the first time in 1941, described the city as a place where anything seemed possible…. What made [its charm], he wrote, was the way the city was at once “charged with the stale odors of Central Europe”—the residue of a world that was already finished—and injected with the new American dynamism.
Zweig never experienced moments of terror or the life-and-death decisions to be made in the course of a few hours, nor was he forced to slog through the long and challenging reconstruction of a professional career. He always seemed to get out well before the wave broke, with plenty of time to pack his bags, sort through his possessions, and, most important of all, pick his destination. He left Austria and his beautiful home in Salzburg as early as 1933. A police search on the false pretext of unearthing a cache of illegal weapons led him to depart for Great Britain, leaving his wife, Friderike, and his two stepdaughters behind. Unlike his German colleagues, including Thomas Mann, who had left Germany upon Hitler’s rise to power in January 1933 with no hope of returning home until there was a change of regime, Zweig was able to travel freely between London, Vienna, and Salzburg for another five years. An Austrian passport, valid until the Anschluss in March 1938, allowed him to make trips to the United States and South America.

But Hitler’s rise to power had serious and immediate consequences for Zweig, in particular the loss of his German publisher, Insel Verlag. Still, at the start of the Nazi era, Zweig’s books continued to be available in Germany. Even though it was forbidden to display them or allude to them in the press, his sales figures remained virtually unchanged in 1933 and 1934. More surprising still, Richard Strauss—who had asked Zweig to write the libretto of his opera The Silent Woman—fought against the suppression of Zweig’s name on the program of the work, at a time when mentioning Jewish artists was prohibited. The opera had its premiere in June 1935, but only two performances followed. Strauss was nevertheless very anxious to continue working with Zweig. He even suggested they keep the collaboration secret until better times, but Zweig’s sense of solidarity with his fellow Jewish artists forbade him to accept.

Those first years of what we can call a comfortable exile were punctuated not by drama—because Zweig was a master at the art of avoiding drama in his personal life—but by a number of conjugal adjustments. Stefan and his wife were on very good terms, and he’d asked her to hire him a secretary when he moved to London. She selected a German refugee, Lotte Altman, a serious young woman, delicate and discreet, who suited Zweig perfectly. Lotte traveled with him frequently, and went with him to meet Friderike in Nice, before he was to take the ship for New York.

The stay in Nice was proceeding harmoniously, at least until Zweig asked Friderike to stop by the British consulate to iron out a problem. When she got to the consulate, she realized that she’d forgotten an important document and went back to the hotel to retrieve it. She walked into the room and found Stefan and Lotte fast asleep. They had a rude awakening but Friderike kept her sang-froid, found the document, and headed back to the consulate; upon her return, however, she demanded not that Lotte be fired, but that she immediately take some time off. A few days later, Zweig boarded his ship. Friderike accompanied him to his stateroom. A letter was waiting for him on the dresser. Both of them recognized Lotte’s handwriting, and Zweig made the surprising gesture of handing it to Friderike without opening it. The entire incident strikes me as indicative of his gift for evasiveness and his loathing of conflict.

Zweig arrived in New York in January 1935: he was fifty-four years old and at the height of his career. He wasn’t a novelist of Thomas Mann’s caliber, and he knew that. He was sufficiently self-effacing to take pride in the fact that the Nazis had burned his books along with those of Freud, Einstein, and the brothers Mann. But his sales beat all records. “Shortening and lightening seem to me a boon to the work of art,” he had written to Richard Strauss and quite naturally he chose as his favorite literary form the novella, a quick and concentrated format that lent itself to splashy, racy subjects; it won him plenty of readers who were tired of “nineteenth-century triple-deckers.” His biographies, which smacked more of novelized history than exhaustive scholarship, sold well for the same reasons. He’d recently published his biography of Erasmus, which he considered a veiled self-portrait: Erasmus, the humanist, represented his own values while his antagonist, Martin Luther, was emblematic of the man of action.

The book was an immediate success, even in Germany. His reputation, his self-imposed exile, his friendship with Joseph Roth and other artists destroyed by political developments, his network of contacts with refugees in Switzerland, Great Britain, and France, all prompted the intense curiosity of journalists. Everyone wanted to hear him condemn the Nazi regime. A press conference was held in the offices of his publisher, Viking. But in response to the precise and pointed questions from reporters who wanted to know what he thought of Hitler, what was going on in Germany, the state of mind among the German populace and the refugees, Zweig was evasive, regarding the press with “his typical ‘languid composure’” and concluding with the statement, “I would never speak against Germany. I would never speak against any country.”

Prochnik, well aware that the biographer’s job is not to judge but rather to try to understand, instead of taking a simplistic approach and condemning Zweig’s passive stance, chooses to view it as a manifestation of his hope that the German people might still come to their senses—perhaps influenced by the fact that his books were still selling so strongly in Germany. Thus “the best response to Hitler’s election was not to demonize his supporters, Zweig believed, but to communicate to them the value of the rich German cultural legacy that was being jeopardized by Nazi politics.” Zweig envisioned the publication of a monthly literary review that would feature articles in different languages, so as

to cement, by its high ethical and literary standards, an aristocratic European brotherhood that eventually would be able to counteract the demagogic propaganda unleashed by those forces that were trying to bring about the moral destruction of Europe.
Nothing came of the project and a disappointed Zweig returned to Great Britain, convinced that he’d lost all real influence. He felt certain that it was impossible to beat the Nazis on their own terms, and he chose to believe that his silence would be taken as condemnation. That was an attitude far too subtle and circumspect to be grasped by political refugees and the American public.

His refusal to come out openly against Hitler weighed even more heavily as Thomas Mann became more and more politically active. When the University of Bonn revoked Mann’s honorary degree, in 1936, he wrote an emphatic diatribe, underscoring his “immeasurable revulsion against the wretched events at home.” It was read in Germany in the form of a clandestine pamphlet, attaining a circulation of 20,000 copies, after which it was translated and distributed in the United States and worldwide. Mann thus became the unrivaled spokesman for all artists in exile, as acknowledged by Toscanini, who praised the text as “magnifico, commovente, profondo, umano.”

Nonetheless, Zweig remained silent: “One would like to crawl into a mouse-hole…. I am a man who prizes nothing more highly than peace and quiet.” He took advantage of the next two years of respite—Austria remained an independent democracy until 1938—to sell his house in Salzburg and especially his extraordinary collection of manuscripts, keeping only a few particularly choice rarities and Beethoven’s desk. He also put an end to his marriage, while successfully remaining good friends with Friderike. He seemed to be girding himself to deal calmly with an enormous upheaval:

Our generation has gradually learned the great art of living without security. We are prepared for anything…. There is a mysterious pleasure in retaining one’s reason and spiritual independence particularly in a period where confusion and madness are rampant.
But he was deceiving himself.

Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel

Things changed radically on September 3, 1939, when, in the aftermath of the invasion of Poland, Great Britain declared war on Germany. From one day to the next, Zweig became an enemy alien in the eyes of Great Britain. Psychologically, it came as a rude shock. “I believe that the new Ministry for Information should be informed a little at least about German Literature and know that I am not an ‘enemy alien’ but perhaps the man who (with Thomas Mann) could be more useful than any others,” he wrote to his publisher.

Of course, the British weren’t about to take the ridiculous step of putting a renowned author in an internment camp, but Zweig was forced to go through the extensive process of requesting identity papers, and while waiting for them was forbidden to travel more than five miles from his place of residence unless specifically authorized, which in turn required hours of his time and lengthy discussions with functionaries who’d never heard of him. His exasperation was bound up with his despair at finding himself deprived of his native language. Not only was it now impossible for him to publish anything in Germany, refugees were strongly advised against speaking German in public. “[Our] language…has been taken away from us, [and we are] living in a country…in which we are only tolerated.” In his journal he wrote, “I am so imprisoned in a language, which I cannot use.”

In spite of his indignation, he did everything necessary to apply to be a naturalized subject, and completed the process in March 1940, for himself and for Lotte, whom he’d married a few months earlier. At the same time, he purchased a number of US Savings Bonds and asked his American publisher, Ben Huebsch, to hold onto them for him. Events continued to rush headlong. The fall of France shook him up. The threat of an invasion of England terrified him. Finally, faithful to his habit of seeking exile in advance, he left for New York with Lotte in July 1940.

It was a changed man who set foot in America. Disheartened, embittered, and irritated by New York’s luxury, magnificence, and glamour, disgusted by his own aging to the point that he tried a rejuvenating cure of hormone injections that left him just as weary and upset as before, he was miserable. The only bright spot in this period was the arrival of Friderike, for whom he had obtained one of the special visas that had been set aside for a thousand or so endangered intellectuals.

One way to understand Zweig is in contrast to Thomas Mann, who came to the United States around the same time, forcefully declaring that he represented the best of Germany: “Where I am, there is Germany…. I carry my German culture within me. I have contact with the world and I do not consider myself fallen.” Zweig lacked such self-confidence, and bemoaned the fact that “emigration implies a shifting of one’s center of gravity.” The chief difference between the two men was that Mann was a member of the German high bourgeoisie, with roots sinking many generations deep in his country’s past, while Zweig, a Jew who rejected Zionism, appreciated above all else “the value of absolute freedom to choose among nations, to feel oneself a guest everywhere.”

Prochnik, who is well aware of the painful shift in self-perception that can afflict those in exile, clearly shows how the elegant Viennese author—acclaimed, free to go wherever he liked, so unobservant a Jew that his mother wrongly suspected him of having converted, who had been married to a Catholic2—despaired when he found himself suddenly plunged into the ranks of the wandering Jews. “His sense of being forced to identify with people who bore no relation with him had come to seem—along with nomadism—the defining experience of exile.”

Zweig suffered all the more because, in spite of his pleasant life as a rich and assimilated Jew, he was always aware of how precarious matters could be for his coreligionists. Here Prochnik recounts a significant anecdote:

One day in the 1920s when Zweig happened to be traveling in Germany with [the playwright] Otto Zarek, the two men stopped off to visit an exhibition of antique furniture at a museum in Munich…. Zweig stopped short before a display of enormous medieval wooden chests.
“Can you tell me,” he abruptly asked, “which of these chests belonged to Jews?” Zarek stared uncertainly—they all looked of equally high quality and bore no apparent marks of ownership.
Zweig smiled. “Do you see these two here? They are mounted on wheels. They belonged to Jews. In those days—as indeed always!—the Jewish people were never sure when the whistle would blow, when the rattles of pogrom would creak. They had to be ready to flee at a moment’s notice.”
We have the impression that he was suddenly gripped by an ancestral fear and that the nightmare embedded deep in his subconscious had suddenly become real.

Another change came in his attitude toward those who came to him for help. He’d always shown an easy generosity in the past, but the supplicants multiplied in number and he realized he was unable to keep up: “[I am] the victim of an avalanche of refugees…. And how to help these writers who even in their own country were only small fry?”

Still paralyzed by his stubborn refusal to take a clear political position, he couldn’t follow the example set by Mann, equally beset by those in search of help, and support the aid organizations. Asked to deliver a ten-minute talk at a fund-raiser for the Emergency Rescue Committee, he spent hours perfecting an anodyne speech: “I do not want to say a word that could be interpreted as encouragement for America’s entry into the war, no word that announces victory, nothing that justifies or glorifies war, and yet the thing must have an optimistic ring.”

The only solution he could find was to plunge headlong into his work. He left New York and took refuge in Ossining where he’d be able to finish his autobiography, now that he was done with his book about Brazil. That town was an odd choice, devoid of all charm and interest, lying in the shadow of Sing Sing prison, but still it was justified by the presence there of Friderike, an indispensable assistant in checking certain details of his text. He worked feverishly and, at the end of the summer of 1941, exhausted, yearning for a life that might afford him a certain degree of stability, he decided to go back to Brazil, which had offered him a permanent residence permit.

This decision failed to bring him the calm that he expected. Though his book on Brazil had acceptable sales, it was not given a favorable reception by Brazilian critics annoyed at Zweig’s vision of an exotic and picturesque paradise. Still in search of more tranquility, he left Rio for the small town of Petrópolis where, as he wrote to Friderike, “One lives here nearer to oneself and in the heart of nature, one hears nothing of politics…. We cannot pay our whole life long for the stupidities of politics, which have never given us a thing but only always taken.” Once again, he was deceiving himself.

On December 7, the Japanese attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. The next day, the United States declared war. Zweig was once again seized by a wave of irrational panic. He feared a German invasion of South America. Every possible way out seemed to be sealed off, one after the other. He despaired at being “miles and miles away from all that was formerly my life, books, concerts, friends and conversation.” But there was one constant in Zweig’s life, the urge to write. He set to work on his last novella, Chess Story, and for the first time he brought Nazis in action into the plot. In his story, an Austrian lawyer is arrested in Vienna. The Gestapo subjects him to an intolerable form of mental torture. The man is confined to a hotel room, cut off from all human interaction, deprived of books, pen, paper, and cigarettes, and sentenced to spend weeks staring at four bare walls: “There was nothing to do, nothing to hear, nothing to see, nothingness was everywhere…a completely dimensionless and timeless void.” He finished writing on February 22. The next day, he and Lotte drank a fatal dose of Veronal.

The photo taken by the police shows him stretched out on his back, his hands crossed; she’s lying beside him, her head on his shoulder, one hand on his. Prochnik concludes: “He looks dead. She looks in love.”

“Mort à jamais?” (Dead forever?) asks Proust’s narrator when the writer Bergotte dies. To Proust, an artist could never die if his works outlive him. In 1942, Zweig certainly looked dead. No one read his books anymore. But he was only in purgatory. His books were rapidly reissued after the end of the war, in Austria, Germany, Italy, and France—the most popular title being The World of Yesterday—and later in Great Britain and the United States. More recently, thanks to New York Review Books and Pushkin Press, a substantial portion of his oeuvre has been republished in new translations, and there is clearly a Zweig revival underway.

Even more surprising, the revival extends to the movies. In his newest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson takes his inspiration not from a specific novella but from the entire body of Zweig’s work and his life. The film is set in the imaginary republic of Zubrowka (the irresistibly droll name is evocative of a Polish bison grass–scented vodka) and tells of the difficulties faced by Monsieur Gustave, the concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel. The film—zany, fast-moving, punctuated by a chase scene with a villain on skis pursued by a duo riding a luge, a prison escape involving tiny metal files concealed in pastries, an elderly countess’s idyll with the concierge, a murder, and a venomous heir—would simply echo the madcap comedies of the 1930s if Anderson hadn’t so deftly given his story a background set in a Europe where any sense of security is rapidly slipping away. That is where the film’s debt to Zweig lies.

Of all the characters in the film, it is unexpectedly the concierge—played by Ralph Fiennes in rare form, with a trim little paintbrush mustache, shifty eyes and a supple grace to his movements, comfortable mastery of all languages, a certain latitude in his sexual tastes, and an overall sense of calm broken here and there by glimmers of disquiet—who best evokes Zweig. And precisely like Zweig, who could reach out at any time to his friends, relations, and publishers around the world, Monsieur Gustave, a member of the all-powerful society of hotel concierges, can draw upon a network of infallible efficiency.

But all these contacts prove useless in the face of an increasingly brutal political reality. In his memoirs, Zweig laments the end of a world where you could travel without passports, without being called upon to justify your existence, and in the film it is the arrival of the border guards that spells the doom of the fictional concierge. The first time they appear, he’s saved by the intervention of an officer who recognizes in him an indulgent witness of his childhood holidays, but the second time he falls victim to the gratuitous violence of the henchmen of a terrifying power. It’s Zweig’s influence that tinges the film with nostalgia and gives it its depth.

—Translated from the French by Antony Shugaar

Quoted by Leon Botstein in “Stefan Zweig and the Illusion of the Jewish European,” Jewish Social Studies, Vol. 44, No. 1 (Winter 1982).


Friderike Zweig, née Burger, had a Jewish father but converted at a young age.

The Rise And Fall Of Stefan Zweig, Who Inspired 'Grand Budapest Hotel'

In Wes Anderson's latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, a writer relates the long and twisting life story of a hotel owner. It's about youthful love and lifelong obsession, and while the story is original, there's a credit at the end that reads: "Inspired by the Writings of Stefan Zweig."

Last month, Anderson told Fresh Air's Terry Gross that until a few years ago, he had never heard of Zweig — and he's not alone. Many moviegoers share Anderson's past ignorance of the man who was once one of the world's most famous and most translated authors.

George Prochnik is out to change that. His forthcoming book is called The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World.

Prochnik tells NPR's Robert Siegel that Zweig was born in Vienna in 1881. After Hitler rose to power, the writer left Austria for England, New York and eventually Brazil, where, in 1942, after years of exile, Zweig killed himself.

"His suicide remains a vexed issue for many people confronting his story," Prochnik says. "The question of why ... was something that remained a problem."

Interview Highlights

On Zweig's suicide

It's critical, when we think about Zweig, to realize how deeply he identified himself with Europe. Zweig's overwhelming objective was the creation, preservation and proclamation of the Europe that was already inside him. When Zweig began to feel that the Europe that he had known was gone for good, he lost a lot of his motivation to keep going ...

This Europe that was so invested in aesthetics, in beauty, in civilized tolerance was very much gone by the time of his suicide. But he knew that, in letting that dream go, he was going to be also relinquishing his hold on the will to live.
On Zweig's short, readable, premodern writing style

When Zweig tries to analyze the reason for his incredible popularity, he ascribes it largely to what he calls a character flaw — radical impatience. And he talks about how he has even proposed to publishers that the classics of literature throughout history should be reissued with all the boring parts cut out ...

But I think — although it's true that there are aspects of Zweig's narrative technique which are conventional and harken back to 19th century forms — in that emphasis on speed and drive of narrative, there is something that we recognize today and can respond to. The stories really move. So he understood the ways that stories could hook us.

His work is deeply invested in confessions and secrets. And we all like to overhear conversations and there's lots of eavesdropping and peeping in and all sorts of ways in which the characters who narrate his stories are often observers of some grand moment of passion to which they become, in some way or other, either sucked in directly or have their own complacent view of the world shaken by what they see of other lives.

On how his time in Berlin influenced his writing

When Zweig was still a young man in university, he went to Berlin where he was supposed to be studying in the university there, but instead spent most of his time in low dives hanging out with the toughest, roughest people he could find. And he describes his lifelong fascination with character types whom he calls "monomaniacs," people really driven to stake everything on the realization of a desire that often proves impossible to realize.

On how The Grand Budapest Hotel reflects Zweig's work

The element of joyously goofy caper that is at the core of Wes Anderson's film is not part of Zweig's own work. But what Zweig does have is an understanding of the absurdity of existence. And even beyond this, I think that one point that Anderson really gets in the film that we feel, when Zweig speaks about Vienna, he talks about a kind of laxity and a joyful sloppiness of the city. He talks about its deep investment in the idea of pleasure, maybe even a slightly transgressive pleasure. And I think the ways that Wes Anderson's film has about it a celebration of life in the midst of a poignant tragedy is something the Zweig himself would have found very resonant.

On why he thinks Zweig was so quickly forgotten

One thing that I can say with certainty is that Zweig himself saw his disappearance as likely. I remember speaking with his stepniece; I asked her what she thought Zweig himself might think about this revival of interest in his work and she said she thought he would be completely astonished. Indeed, near the end of Zweig's life he wrote repeatedly of feeling that he was living a posthumous existence. And that's one aspect of his humility that's actually very appealing: He felt it was important to make room for the next generation.

But the reality, in terms of the almost complete disappearance of Stefan Zweig in this country — the reality is that it's surprisingly specific to the Anglo world that his disappearance was so complete. He does not present the kind of stories that Americans gravitate to in terms of sticking with it and succeeding at all costs. More or less the opposite.

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Miles Davis Way to Be Unveiled

Miles Davis Way to Be Unveiled

Before he left office, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg signed a bill naming a block of West 77th Street in honor of the jazz trumpeter and composer Miles Davis. The block, between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive, will be called Miles Davis Way. Mr. Davis, who died in 1991, had an apartment in a brownstone at 312 West 77th Street, and lived there for about 25 years, until the mid-1980’s. Now the new street sign is ready, and will have a public unveiling on May 26, the 88th anniversary of Davis’s birth, at noon. Two of Davis’s children, Cheryl Davis and Erin Davis, as well as Vince Wilburn, Jr., his nephew, will be on hand for the ceremony, which will include a block party sponsored by the Far West 77th Street Block Association.

On This Day
September 29, 1991

Miles Davis, Trumpeter, Dies; Jazz Genius, 65, Defined Cool


Miles Davis, the trumpeter and composer whose haunting tone and ever-changing style made him an elusive touchstone of jazz for four decades, died yesterday at St. John's Hospital and Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 65 years old.

He died of pneumonia, respiratory failure and a stroke, his doctor, Jeff Harris, said in a statement released by the hospital.

A spokeswoman for the hospital, Pat Kirk, said yesterday that Mr. Davis had been a patient there for several weeks.

Mr. Davis's unmistakable, voicelike, nearly vibratoless tone -- at times distant and melancholy, at others assertive yet luminous -- has been imitated around the world.

His solos, whether ruminating on a whispered ballad melody or jabbing against a beat, have been models for generations of jazz musicians. Other trumpeters play faster and higher, but more than in any technical feats Mr. Davis's influence lay in his phrasing and sense of space. "I always listen to what I can leave out," he would say.

Equally important, Mr. Davis never settled into one style; every few years he created a new lineup and format for his groups. Each phase brought denunciations from critics; each, except for the most recent one, has set off repercussions throughout modern jazz. "I have to change," he once said. "It's like a curse."

Mr. Davis came of age in the be-bop era; many successive styles -- cool jazz, hard-bop, modal jazz, jazz-rock, jazz-funk -- were sparked or ratified by his example. Throughout his career he was grounded in the blues, but he also drew on pop, flamenco, classical music, rock, Arab music and Indian music. Musicians he discovered often moved on to innovations of their own.

Mr. Davis was also known for a volatile personality and arrogant public pronouncements, and for a stage presence that could be charismatic or aloof. For a while, he turned his back on audiences as he played and walked offstage when he was not soloing. His public persona was flamboyant, uncompromising and fiercely independent; he drove Ferraris and Lamborghinis and did not mince words when he disliked something.

Yet his music was deeply collaborative. He spurred his sidemen to find their own musical voices and was inspired by them in turn.

Trumpet at 13
Miles Dewey Davis 3d was born May 25, 1926, in Alton, Ill., the son of an affluent dental surgeon, and grew up in East St. Louis, Ill. On his 13th birthday, he was given a trumpet and lessons with a local jazz musician, Elwood Buchanan. He got his musicians' union card at 15 so he could perform around St. Louis with Eddie Randall's Blue Devils.

Clark Terry, the trumpeter, one of his early idols, became Mr. Davis's mentor, and his local reputation grew quickly. Mr. Davis's parents made him turn down early offers to join big bands. But in 1944 the Billy Eckstine band, which then included two men who were beginning to create be-bop -- Charlie Parker on alto saxophone and Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet -- arrived in St. Louis with an ailing third trumpeter. Mr. Davis sat in for two weeks. The experience made him decide to move to New York, the center of the be-bop revolution.

He enrolled in the Juilliard School of Music in September 1944, and for his first months in New York he studied classical music by day and jazz by night, in the clubs of 52d Street and Harlem. Mr. Parker, who roomed with Mr. Davis for a time, and Mr. Gillespie introduced him to the coterie of be-bop musicians. From them he learned the harmonic vocabulary of be-bop and began to forge a solo style.

Mr. Davis made his first recording in May 1945 backing up a singer, Rubberlegs Williams. He also performed in the 52d Street clubs with the saxophonists Coleman Hawkins and Eddie (Lockjaw) Davis. In the fall of that year he joined Charlie Parker's quintet and dropped out of Juilliard.

"Up at Juilliard," Mr. Davis said later, "I played in the symphony, two notes, 'bop-bop,' every 90 bars, so I said, 'Let me out of here,' and then I left."

With Parker's quintet, Mr. Davis recorded one of the first be-bop sessions in November 1945. It yielded the singles "Now's the Time" and "Koko." For the next few years he worked primarily with Parker, and his tentative, occasionally shaky playing evolved into a pared-down, middle-register style that created a contrast with Parker's aggressive forays. He made his first recording as a leader on Aug. 14, 1947, with a quintet that included Parker on tenor saxophone.

But Mr. Davis was moving away from the extroversion of early be-bop, and in 1948 he began to experiment with a new, more elaborately orchestrated style that would become known as "cool jazz." Working with the arrangers Gil Evans (a frequent collaborator throughout his career), John Lewis and Gerry Mulligan, Mr. Davis brought a nine-piece band to the Royal Roost in New York to play rich, ruminative ensemble pieces, with solos floating in diffuse clouds of harmony. Although the public showed little interest, Mr. Davis was able to record the music in 1949 and 1950, and it helped spawn a cerebral cool-jazz movement on the West Coast.

Mr. Davis became a heroin addict in the early 1950's, performing infrequently and making erratic recordings. But in 1954 he overcame his addiction and began his first string of important small-group recordings.

"Walkin'," a swaggering blues piece informed by the extended harmonies of be-bop, turned decisively away from cool jazz and announced the arrival of hard bop. During 1954 Mr. Davis recorded with such leading musicians as the saxophonist Sonny Rollins and the pianists Horace Silver and Thelonious Monk.

Over the next year, he made a triumphant appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival and assembled his first important quintet, with John Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums.

Breakthrough to Popularity
Like many of the Davis bands to follow, it seemed to be an incompatible grouping in prospect, mixing the suavity and harmonic nuances of Garland and Chambers with the forcefulness of Jones and the raw energy of Coltrane.

But it achieved a remarkable balance of delicacy and drive, with a sense of space and dynamics influenced by the pianist Ahmad Jamal's trio, and it brought Mr. Davis his first general popularity.

The quintet recorded six albums in 1955-56, four of them in marathon sessions to fulfill Mr. Davis's recording contract with the independent Prestige Records label so he could sign with Columbia, a major label.

In 1957 Mr. Davis had a throat operation to remove nodes from his vocal cords. Two days later he began shouting at someone who, he once said, "tried to convince me to go into a deal I didn't want." His voice was permanently damaged, reduced to a raspy whisper.

During the late 1950's Mr. Davis alternated orchestral albums with Gil Evans arrangements -- "Miles Ahead" (1957), "Porgy and Bess" (1958) and "Sketches of Spain" (1960) -- with small-group sessions. He recorded the soundtrack for Louis Malle's film "Ascenseur Pour l'Echafaud" ("Elevator to the Gallows") with French musicians, then reconvened his quintet and added Julian (Cannonball) Adderley on alto saxophone. The sound track and the sextet's first album, "Milestones," signaled another metamorphosis, cutting back the harmonic motion of be-bop to make music with fewer chords and more ambiguous harmonies.

Mood and Melodic Tension
With "Kind of Blue" in 1959, that change was complete. Most of the pieces on "Kind of Blue" (composed by Mr. Davis or his new pianist, Bill Evans) were based on modal scales rather than chords. Mood and melodic tension became paramount, in music that was at times voluptuous and austere.

From this point onward, Mr. Davis would return often to music based on static, stripped-down harmonies. John Coltrane, among others, was to make modal jazz one of the definitive styles of the 1960's.

The Davis group's personnel fluctuated in the early 1960's until Mr. Davis settled on a new quintet in 1964, with Wayne Shorter (who became the group's main composer) on tenor saxophone, Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams on drums. It was one of the most important ensembles in 1960's jazz, pushing tonal harmony to its limits and developing a dazzling rhythmic flexibility.

On the albums "E.S.P.," "Miles Smiles," "The Sorcerer" and "Nefertiti," the group could swing furiously, then open up unexpected spaces or dissolve the beat into abstract waves of sound. The quintet defined an exploratory alternative to 1960's free jazz. The four sidemen also recorded prolifically on their own, extending the quintet's influence.

Branching Into Rock Rhythms
Mr. Davis had touched on rock rhythms in one selection on "E.S.P.," but with the 1968 albums "Miles in the Sky" and "Filles de Kilimanjaro," he began to experiment more seriously with rock rhythms, repeating bass lines and electronic instruments. He also began to work with open-ended compositions, based on rhythmic feeling, fragments of melody or bass patterns and his own on-the-spot directives.

Mr. Davis expanded the group on "In a Silent Way" (1969) with three electric keyboards and electric guitar. Using static harmonics and a rock undercurrent, the music was eerie and reflective, at once abstract and grounded by the beat. "Bitches Brew" (1969), recorded by a larger group -- trumpeter, soprano saxophonist, bass clarinetist, two bassists, two or three keyboardists, three drummers and a percussionist -- was an aggressive, spooky sequel, roiling and churning with improvisations in every register.

The two albums, along with performances at the Fillmore East and Fillmore West rock auditoriums, brought Mr. Davis's music to the rock audience; "Bitches Brew" became a best-selling album. Musicians who had worked with Mr. Davis from 1968-70 went on to lead the pioneering jazz-rock groups -- the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Tony Williams Lifetime, Weather Report and Return to Forever.

Reaching Young Blacks
Mr. Davis, meanwhile, was turning from rock toward funk; in interviews at the time, he talked about reaching young black audiences. His bands in the 1970's were anchored by a bassist, Michael Henderson, who had worked with Stevie Wonder, and they moved percussion and syncopated bass lines into the foreground. Around them, keyboards, saxophone, guitars and Mr. Davis's trumpet (now electrified, and often played through a wah-wah pedal) supplied rhythmic and textural effects as well as solos.

"On the Corner" (1972), which also used Indian tabla drums and sitar, marked the change, and a pair of live albums, "Dark Magus" and "Pangaea," were even more jolting. Conventional melody and harmony had been virtually abandoned; the music was a thicket of rhythms and electronic textures. Critical reaction at the time was mixed, but those albums became an inspiration to the late-1970's "no wave" noise-rockers and a new generation of funk experimenters in the 1980's.

By the end of 1975 mounting medical problems -- among them ulcers, throat nodes, hip surgery and bursitis -- forced Mr. Davis into a five-year retirement. In 1981 he returned with an album, "The Man With the Horn," a Kool Jazz Festival concert in New York and a band featuring Robert Irving 3d as keyboardist and co-producer.

Although Mr. Davis's technique was intact, the music seemed for the first time to involve commercial calculations and a look backward at Mr. Davis's previous styles; he even played pop songs. With "You're Under Arrest" (1985), "Tutu" (1986) and "Music From Siesta" (1988), he recorded the music layer by layer, like pop albums, instead of leading musicians in live interaction. But on stage and on record, especially on the blues-oriented "Star People" (1983), there were still moments of the fierce beauty that is Mr. Davis's lasting legacy to American music.

His last New York performance was in June as part of a double bill with B. B. King in the JVC Jazz Festival. In a review in The New York Times, Peter Watrous called the performance "a particularly bad night" for Mr. Davis. "The problem seemed simple," Mr. Watrous wrote. "Mr. Davis was incapable of sustaining more than a few notes at a time; the spareness seemed less an editorial decision than a decision handed down by physical constraints."

Mr. Davis was married three times, to the dancer Frances Taylor, singer Betty Mabry and the actress Cicely Tyson. All ended in divorce. Survivors include a daughter, Cheryl; three sons, Gregory, Miles IV and Erin, and several grandchildren.

Memorial services are being planned in New York City and East St. Louis, said Ms. Kirk at the hospital.

Sunday 25 May 2014

Watching boxing with Picasso and a ménage-à-trois at home: my life with the surrealist elite. Enfance, j’écris ton nom. Entretien avec Cécile Eluard

Salvador Dali and Cecile Eluard's mother Gala in Dali's Paris studio in 1934. Photograph: Bettmann/CORBIS

Watching boxing with Picasso and a ménage-à-trois at home: my life with the surrealist elite
As a book by her poet father Paul Eluard is due to be published for the first time in English, Cécile Eluard, 95, recalls her youth among such geniuses as Max Ernst, Salvador Dalí and Marcel Duchamp
Agnès Poirier in Paris

As befits the daughter of one of the 20th century's most famous surrealists, Paul Eluard, the childhood of Cécile Eluard was never less than extraordinary. As she grew up in the family home of Eaubonne, north of Paris, in the late 1920s, the German dadaist Max Ernst was painting frescoes on the walls as well as sleeping with her mother.

"Ernst had painted on the walls of almost every room of our house," she recalls now at the age of 95. "There was a duck on wheels just above my bed." In a dining room corner, Ernst had painted a big naked woman, whose body was sliced off. "You could see her innards. That terrified me." There was also a red room in which another naked woman clasped her enormous breast. "That frightened me beyond belief." Meanwhile, in her parents' room Ernst painted aardvarks eating ants and big human hands around the windows. "Sexual connotations, I think," she says shyly.

Ernst , the German painter, became Paul Eluard's best friend at the age of 30 as well as the lover of her mother, Gala. "We lived there, all together, quite naturally, for a few years. I don't remember finding it odd."

Having grown up surrounded by some of the most colourful, eccentric and brilliant artists of the century, Eluard has a treasure trove of such memories. But she has been reticent when it comes to sharing them.

Though legions of art lovers and art historians remain fascinated by the surrealist movement that captivated Europe between the world wars , Eluard has given only three interviews in her lifetime and, until now, none in English.

But the occasion of a new edition of the only children's book her poet father wrote, Grain-d'Aile (1951), has inspired her to open up. The book will be re-released in France with new illustrations by the artist Chloé Poizat and is soon to be published for the first time in English, which might generate a new audience for Eluard's work on the English side of the Channel. His daughter's reminiscences open the door to a lost radical and vibrant world in which conventions, whether artistic or moral, were there to be flouted.

Some of Eluard's fondest memories are of Picasso, a close friend, who used to take her to boxing matches. "He never got old. I never felt the 40-odd years between us. We would go and have a swim in Vallauris, I would come and visit him whenever I liked in his studio in rue des Grands Augustins in Paris. He would show me his little sculptures made of bric-à-brac. He was so alive, so earthy, so absolutely not abstract!"

Did his mistresses resent the friendship? "Dora Maar didn't like me, I remember it well, she told me so! But then, she didn't like women, she was only interested in men. I liked the next one better, Françoise Gilot, she was bright, and kind."

Cécile Eluard was destined to find her loves and friendships among the luminaries of the avant-garde. Her parents, Paul Eluard and Gala, born Elena Ivanovna Diakonova, met in Switzerland at a sanatorium in 1913. He was 18, she 19. They fell in love, punch-drunk on poetry and Russian literature, and married in 1917. A year later Cécile Eluard was born, the only daughter of the very young couple. Cécile was barely speaking when her parents met the then struggling artist Ernst in 1921.

The frescoes painted by him in the 1920s were almost lost. When Eluard told her husband about them decades later, they drove to the old house, which was still inhabited by the artisan jewellers who bought it from Eluard in the late 1920s. "My husband, a writer and shrewd businessman, rented the house from them for three months and hired a well-known restorer to peel off the wallpaper and retrieve Ernst's frescoes."

One evening, the day before the restorer was due to pack and leave, some plaster fell off the ceiling and another painting by Max Ernst appeared. "I had totally forgotten about that one. These were naked ballerinas on a boat. We called Ernst. We wanted him to sign his work. I wasn't sure how he'd react. In fact, he was very happy to see all those long-forgotten décors."

Ernst duly signed the frescos, for a fee. And Cécile then auctioned them off. "The shah's wife, Farah Diba, bought the biggest panels. You can see them today at Tehran's modern art museum." As for the artisan-jewellers, they couldn't care less about Max Ernst. "All they wanted was to get their wallpaper back on time for Christmas."

Wouldn't she have preferred to hold on to such treasures?

"I was never very wealthy," she says. Or at least not as wealthy as she should have been. Now that everyone involved is dead, Eluard can reveal how her father's third wife, who married him a few months before his death in November 1952, made her waive her inheritance (under French law, children automatically inherit from their parents). Cécile and her children consequently spent decades trying to buy back pieces of the family art collection at different auctions. Of his huge collection of African art, she has retained a couple of little statuettes which she uses as bookends.

Paul Eluard was an avid art and book collector. Well-known pictures taken by the photographer Brassaï show him at home surrounded by oil canvases by Picasso, Braque, Max Ernst, Chirico, Chagall and Dalí. Eluard liked to discover new talents, and had a flair for the art market. "Poets were not rich. His passion for art, and his avant-garde taste, meant he could support himself by buying and selling art."

At the time of his death, Eluard also had a collection of thousands of rare poetry books, dating back to the Renaissance. They all carried his Ex Libris designed by Max Ernst with the motto: "Après moi, le sommeil" (After me, only sleep). His widow sold off the collection – and the poet's private correspondence – bit by bit, living comfortably off the Eluard estate.

What about her mother Gala, who left Eluard to marry Salvador Dalí and was also a muse to such figures as Louis Aragon and André Breton?

"After she met Dalí in 1929, she was not interested in me any more." Cécile was only 11 when Gala abandoned both husband and daughter.

"She was never very warm, even before. She was very mysterious, very secretive. I never got to meet my Russian family. I didn't even know when exactly she was born."

After Gala left, Cécile went to live with her paternal grandmother in Paris, seeing her father very regularly, and her mother only once or twice a year. For Gala, Cécile didn't really exist any more.

One day in June 1940, as the Wehrmacht was marching down from Flanders towards Paris and beyond, Cécile, then 22, was told by her employer, the Wheat Office, that she and the entire ministry had to leave the capital at once by their own means. Cécile remembered that her mother had rented a villa in the resort of Arcachon for the summer.

"A handsome young truck driver drove me there. The journey took two days. Millions of French people were on the roads, going south, fleeing the German army.

"I arrived at the villa and asked to see my mother. The maid said that Gala didn't have any daughter and that I was a liar. Gala wasn't in and I had nowhere else to go. I kept talking with the maid who finally and defiantly said: 'Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray arrived this morning. We'll see if they know you.' She opened the door, Duchamp and Man Ray were playing chess. They knew me well, of course, so I was safe."

It has been a turbulent ride through the decades, but it has never been dull. Looking back on her rich life and four marriages, Cécile Eluard says: "I married and divorced easily. There was no drama, we met and parted amicably. My father was the same, and each time we had a party.

"Ah, parents! I may not have had much of a mother, but at least I had a nice papa."

 Enfance, j’écris ton nom. Entretien avec Cécile Eluard
LE MONDE DES LIVRES | 27.03.2014 à 12h42 • Mis à jour le 27.03.2014

Paul Eluard n’était pas tout à fait du genre à raconter des histoires chaque soir à sa fille Cécile en la bordant. Quand cela arrivait – « c’était rare », précise-t-elle aujourd’hui –, il n’inventait pas ses propres intrigues mais « arrangeait à sa manière des livres pour adultes, comme Les Mille et Une Nuits ». Il a cependant écrit deux livres pour enfants, dont un seul achevé, Grain-d’Aile, paru en 1951, clin d’œil au véritable nom d’Eluard : Eugène Grindel. Alors que le livre reparaît avec de nouvelles illustrations, signées Chloé Poizat, la fille unique du poète et de Gala (qui fut sa femme de 1917 à 1932, avant d’épouser Salvador Dali) a accepté de parler pour la première fois. Jusqu’à ce jour, et malgré les nombreuses sollicitations, elle avait toujours refusé de raconter à des journalistes ou des biographes ce qu’elle appelle son « enfance surréaliste », dans laquelle Picasso était un homme amusant qu’elle retrouvait à la plage, Max Ernst, un monsieur qui habitait chez ses parents et dessinait sur les murs – dont elle a gardé un portrait qu’il fit d’elle enfant –, et Salvador Dali, un drôle de beau-père. A bientôt 96 ans, celle qui s’apprête à accompagner un biographe de son père, Olivier Barbarant, dans son travail, évoque pour « Le Monde des livres » quelques figures clés de sa jeunesse.

Paul Eluard (1895-1952) Il est partout autour de Cécile – son portrait par George Grosz trône au-dessus du fauteuil où elle passe ses journées. Ils furent « assez proches », dit-elle, jusqu’à sa mort d’une crise cardiaque. Après la séparation de ses parents, Cécile a été envoyée en pension, puis s’est installée chez sa grand-mère paternelle qui, bien qu’aisée, habitait « un appartement très grand et terriblement peu confortable », rue Ordener, dans le 18e arrondissement de Paris. Elle voyait régulièrement son père, qui la laissait piocher dans sa bibliothèque – « Quand j’avais 14 ans et que je lui ai demandé si je pouvais lire Sade, il m’a dit : “Je ne te le conseille pas, mais je ne te l’interdis pas.” » Elle lisait sa poésie mais « on n’en parlait pas vraiment ensemble », dit-elle, refusant de révéler quels sont ses poèmes préférés : « Il y en a certains que je trouve très émouvants », lâche-t-elle seulement. L’auteur de Liberté lui a visiblement donné le goût de la littérature, puisque Cécile fut, toute sa vie d’adulte, libraire spécialisée en livres anciens. De son père, poète officiel du Parti communiste français, elle hérita aussi son inclinaison politique, votant « longtemps » pour le PCF, et toujours à gauche.
Gala (1894-1982) Elena Ivanovna Diakonova, née en Russie en 1894, était « une femme très dure », se souvient sa fille unique. Si elle mena une vie romanesque et fort peu conventionnelle, cette muse-née, qui avait rencontré Eugène Grindel en 1914 dans un sanatorium, avait des « idées très strictes » sur l’éducation. « Vers mes 11 ans, elle s’est désintéressée de moi », dit Cécile Eluard, ce qui correspond au coup de foudre de Gala et Salvador Dali, en 1929 – leur mariage eut lieu trois ans plus tard. « A partir de là, je ne l’ai pas vue plus d’une ou deux fois par an », rapporte Cécile. Pourtant, ses parents restèrent proches jusqu’à la mort d’Eluard. Lors de celle de Gala, en 1982, leur fille trouva les lettres envoyées à celle-ci par le poète, témoignant d’une complicité artistique et érotique qui avait perduré bien après leur divorce. Elle autorisa leur publication (Lettres à Gala, Gallimard, 1984). Si le jugement qu’elle porte sur cette mère n’est guère tendre, elle estime cependant qu’« on a écrit des choses affreuses sur elle ».

Max Ernst (1891-1976) En 1921, venue à Cologne avec son mari, Gala pose pour le peintre allemand Max Ernst ; ils deviennent amants. Eluard en prend si peu ombrage que Max Ernst s’installe bientôt dans la maison du couple à Eaubonne (Val-d’Oise), avec son fils, du même âge que Cécile – laquelle se souvient d’un garçon « terriblement mal élevé ». Pendant l’été 1923, le peintre recouvre les murs de la villa de fresques figurant un jardin extraordinaire aux figures animales et végétales suggestives. Le souvenir de ces pièces ne reviendra à Cécile que plus de quarante ans après, en 1968 : soudain, elle revit « l’image des tamanoirs et d’un lézard », et puis « la chambre rouge – j’en avais si peur ! Ça n’est pas normal, d’avoir une chambre rouge, non ? ». Avec son mari de l’époque (elle en a eu quatre), ils retrouvent la maison, vendue depuis longtemps, et convainquent les habitants de la leur louer pour trois mois, le temps de décoller « leur affreux papier peint » et de détacher « grâce à des méthodes très compliquées » et avec une infinité de précautions le plâtre portant les précieuses peintures, qui furent ensuite exposées dans le monde entier.

Nusch (1906-1946) Née Maria Benz, égérie des surréalistes, à commencer par Man Ray, modèle posant souvent pour Picasso, « Nusch » fut la deuxième épouse de son père, et la « grande amie » de Cécile. « Elle était si douce et si gentille… » Sa belle-fille était avec elle le jour de 1946 où Nusch fut la proie d’une hémorragie cérébrale. Elle est aujourd’hui encore au bord des larmes en racontant que son père était absent de Paris ce jour-là, et que la mort de Nusch les laissa tous deux désemparés. « Vingt-huit novembre mil neuf cent quarante-six/ Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble./ Voici le jour/ En trop : le temps déborde. Mon amour si léger prend le poids d’un supplice », écrivit Eluard. En 1951, le poète se remaria en 1951 avec Dominique Lemor.

Salvador Dali (1904-1989) « Il était finalement plus gentil avec moi que ma mère », soupire Cécile, retrouvant une voix de petite fille. « Il me disait des choses farfelues. Quand j’étais enfant, il lui arrivait de me montrer des tableaux et de me demander ce que j’y voyais. Mes réponses l’amusaient. » Dali, affirme-t-elle, « était la seule personne qui intéressait [Gala] ».

Francis Ponge (1899-1988) Adolescente, Cécile était souvent invitée à de grands dîners chez son père, qui l’incitait à venir en lui promettant qu’elle allait rencontrer « des gens qui [l’]amuseraient ou [l’] intéresseraient ». « Moi, j’étais assez sauvage et désagréable avec eux. Tous ces poètes… Ils me semblaient vieux. » Au côté d’Henri Michaux – que la mort de sa femme transforma, en 1948, en reclus –, c’est avec Francis Ponge seul qu’elle entretint des liens importants, et ce jusqu’à la mort de l’écrivain : « Nous étions proches et nous nous comprenions », résume-t-elle. Surtout, l’auteur du Parti pris des choses avait une qualité fondamentale aux yeux de Cécile : « Il n’était pas trop surréaliste… »

Éluard was born in Saint-Denis, Seine-Saint-Denis, France, the son of Clément Grindel and wife Jeanne Cousin. At age 16 he contracted tuberculosis and interrupted his studies. He met Gala, born Elena Ivanovna Diakonova, whom he married in 1917, in the Swiss sanatorium of Davos. Together they had a daughter named Cécile. Around this time Éluard wrote his first poems. He was particularly inspired by Walt Whitman. In 1918, Jean Paulhan “discovered” him and introduced him to André Breton and Louis Aragon. After collaborating with German Dadaist Max Ernst, who had entered France illegally, in 1921, he entered into a menage a trois living arrangement with Gala and Ernst in 1922.

After a marital crisis, he traveled, returning to France in 1924. Éluard's writings of this period reflect his tumultuous experiences. In 1929 he had another bout of tuberculosis and separated from Gala when she left him for Salvador Dalí, with whom she remained for the rest of her life.

In 1934, he married Nusch (Maria Benz), a model who was considered somewhat of a mascot of the surrealist movement, whom Éluard had met through his friends Man Ray and Pablo Picasso. During World War II, he was involved in the French Resistance, during which time he wrote Liberty (1942), Les sept poèmes d'amour en guerre (1944) and En avril 1944: Paris respirait encore! (1945, illustrated by Jean Hugo).

He joined the French Communist Party in 1942, which led to his break from the Surrealists[citation needed], and he later eulogised Joseph Stalin in his political writings. Milan Kundera has recalled he was shocked when he heard of Éluard's public approval of the hanging of Éluard's friend, the Prague writer Zavis Kalandra in 1950.

His grief at the premature death of his wife Nusch in 1946 inspired the work "Le temps déborde" in 1947. 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 1948, which he persuaded Pablo Picasso to participate in.

Éluard met his last wife, Dominique Laure, at the Congress of Peace in Mexico in 1949. They married in 1951. He dedicated his work The Phoenix to her.

Paul Éluard died from a heart attack in November 1952. His funeral was held in Charenton-le-Pont, and organized by the Communist Party.

He is buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery.