Louis Aragon

Born 3 October 1897, died 24 December 1982. Louis Aragon was a French writer who began his career as a brilliantly iconoclastic participant in Dada and then in surrealism. He left the surrealist movement after a visit to the USSR in 1930-31, joined the Communist party and devoted himself mainly to realistic and political fiction.

Some of Aragon’s early writings are among the classic surrealist texts. The poems in La Grande Gaite (1929) memorably illustrate surrealist poetic investigation through wordplay and constitute an essential contribution to the foundation of surrealist poetics. His 1926 novel Le Paysan de Paris develops the surrealist concept of “the daily marvellous” (le merveilleux quotidien) through its evocation of the urban landscape of the French capital.

In Traite du style (1928) he offered not a treatise on style but a virtuoso display of invective, inspired by the surrealist ethic. He inaugurated his realistic fiction in 1934 with Les Cloches de Bale (The Bells of Basel, 1936) and thereafter became increasingly Marxist oriented. His realistic work is pedestrian, earnest, and well intentioned, as are the poems of his postsurrealist period.

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