Biography and Poems by André Breton
Poems by André Breton
André Breton (1896—1966) was a French poet, writer, and cultural commentator, and one of the key figures of the Surrealist movement in art and literature. Born on February 19, 1896, in Tinchebray, a small village in Normandy, France, Breton studied medicine before turning his attention to literature. He became involved with the Dada movement and was instrumental in the development of Surrealism in the 1920s.
His father, Louis-Justin Breton, was a policeman and militant atheist, and his mother, Marguerite-Marie-Eugénie Le Gouguès, was a former seamstress. He inherited his atheistic streak from his father and his looks from his mother.
André Breton’s medical studies were cut short when he was conscripted for the army during the World War. Because of his medical background, he wasn’t sent into into the trenches but was assigned to a neurological ward at a hospital in Nantes.
During this period that he met another young man named Jacques Vaché (1895-1919). By then was André Breton had some literary aspirations and was a follower of the French Symbolist writer Alfred Jarry (1873-1907), who later developed the ideas that would result in the Dada, Surrealist, and Futurist movements.
Breton mentioned the influence in literature he got from Vaché and Jarry as follows:
En littérature, je me suis successivement épris de Rimbaud, de Jarry, d’Apollinaire, de Nouveau, de Lautréamont, mais c’est à Jacques Vaché que je dois le plus.
(In literature, I was successively taken with Rimbaud, Jarry, Apollinaire, Nouveau, Lautréamont, but it was Jacques Vaché to whom I owe the most.”)
Vaché died from an opium overdose of opium in 1919, Breton believed that this was a suicide. Jarry died from of tuberculosis but the rapid development of the illness itself was attributed to abuse of alcohol and drugs.
His second wife (married 1934; divorced 1943) Jacqueline Lamba (1910 – 1993) was a French painter and surrealist artist. A year after their marriage their daughter Aube Elléouët Breton was born. She is André Breton’s only child.
His third and final wife (from 1945 until his death in 1966) was Elisa Breton, maiden name Elisa Latte Elena Bindhoff Enet. She was born Viña del Mar in Chile, 1906, died Le Kremlin-Bicêtre, Paris, 2000. and she was a South-American-born French artist and writer. She was also an accomplished pianist.
Breton believed in the power of the unconscious mind to create art and championed the idea of “automatic writing,” where thoughts and words were written down without conscious thought or control. His book “Manifesto of Surrealism,” published in 1924, outlined the principles of the movement and its aim to integrate dream and reality, tapping into the irrational and hidden aspects of the human psyche.
Breton’s influence extended beyond his own writing. He founded the Surrealist journal “Littérature” in 1919 and later established the Bureau of Surrealist Research, a group dedicated to exploring the possibilities of Surrealism.
During his lifetime, Breton also engaged with political and social issues, aligning himself with the Communist Party and participating in Marxist activities. He was actively involved in the French Resistance during World War II and later became an advocate for decolonization.
André Breton died on September 28, 1966, in Paris, leaving behind a rich legacy of surrealist thought and artistic expression. He also left a collection of books and art objects. He remains one of the most influential figures in 20th-century literature.
Links and References
André Breton and Problems of Twentieth Century Culture, World Socialist Web
André Breton at WikiPoems