Le Devoir et l’inquiétude, 1917
Poèmes pour la paix, 1918
Les Animaux et leurs hommes, les hommes et leurs animaux, 1920
Les Nécessités de la vie et les conséquences des rêves, 1921
Mourir de ne pas mourir, 1924
Capitale de la douleur, 1926 (Capital of Pain, 1973)
L’Amour la poésie, 1929
À toute épreuve, 1930
La Vie immédiate, 1932
La Rose publique, 1934
Les Yeux fertiles, 1936
Thorns of Thunder: Selected Poems, 1936
Les Mains libres, 1937
Donner à voir, 1939
Le Livre ouvert I, 1938-1940, 1940
Choix de poèmes, 1914-1941, 1941
Le Livre ouvert II, 1939-1941, 1942
Poésie et vérité, 1942 (Poetry and Truth, 1942, 1944)
Au rendez-vous allemand, 1944
Dignes de vivre, 1944
En avril 1944: Paris respirait encore!, 1945
Le Dur Désir de durer, 1946 (The Dour Desire to Endure, 1950)
Poésie ininterrompue, 1946
Corps mémorable, 1947
Le Livre ouvert, 1938-1944, 1947
Marc Chagall, 1947
Poèmes politiques, 1948
Premiers Poèmes (1913-1921), 1948
Une Leçon de morale, 1949
Le Phénix, 1951
Tout dire, 1951
Poèmes pour tous, 1952
Poésie ininterrompue, II, 1953 (Unbroken Poetry II, 1966)
Les Derniers Poèmes d’amour de Paul Éluard, 1962 (Last Love Poems of Paul Éluard, 1980)
Selected Poems, 1988
L’Immaculée Conception, 1930 (with André Breton; The Immaculate Conception, 1990)
L’Évidence poétique, 1936
Avenir de la poésie, 1937
Poésie involuntaire et poésie intentionelle, 1942
À Pablo Picasso, 1944
Jacques Villon ou l’art glorieux, 1948
Picasso à Antibes, 1948
La Poésie du passé, 1951
Anthologie des écrits sur l’art, 1952
Les Sentiers et routes de la poésie, 1952
Lettres à Joe Bousquet, 1973
Letters to Gala, 1989
Œuvres complètes, 1968
Paul Éluard (ay-lew-ar), born Eugène Grindel, was a principal figure in the early years of the French Surrealist movement and is one of France’s most beloved poets. Exemplary of deep compassion in the face of suffering and human adversity caused by wars and repressive regimes, he was inspired in his poetry by the love of his three wives. Éluard’s poetry radiates luminous imagery and describes everyday objects and events that take on profound meaning.
Born in Saint-Denis, a small, working-class industrial center north of Paris, on December 14, 1895, Eugène Grindel was the only child of Clément Eugène Grindel and Jeanne Marie Cousin. In July, 1912, while vacationing with his mother in Switzerland, he contracted a serious pulmonary infection that forced him to enter a sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland, from the winter of 1912 to the spring of 1914. Thus, his studies at the École Colbert in Paris were interrupted. In Davos he wrote, read, pondered the creation of poetry, and met Helena Diakonova, a young Russian known as Gala, with whom he fell deeply in love. An avid reader, she captivated Éluard with her cultivated character and engaging presence. Éluard returned to Paris in the spring of 1914, and the two married in Paris in February, 1917.
Éluard joined the army in 1914 at the outbreak of World War I. The war experience, which had a permanent effect on his personal philosophy, inspired him to help those oppressed by military force, political power, or social constraints. A member of the medical corps and then of the infantry, Éluard witnessed the brutality of armed conflict. Already suffering from unstable health, he was gassed and would never completely recover. After his daughter, Cécile Simone Antonyle Grindel, was born in 1918, Éluard was posted to a military supply store outside Paris.
In 1918 he published Poèmes pour la paix under the name Paul Éluard, the surname of his maternal grandmother, taken as a pseudonym in 1914. The critical success of his poetry allowed him to begin frequenting Parisian literary circles, in which he met other writers such as André Breton, the author of Manifeste du surréalisme (1924; Manifesto of Surrealism, 1969); Louis Aragon, novelist and poet; and Tristan Tzara, the creator of Dadaism.
In 1919 Éluard joined the Parisian Dadaists and participated in the birth of Surrealism. Its first manifesto stated that Freudian psychoanalysis, the voice of the subconscious, dream imagery, and dark humor as well as the free association of language were aspects of life that should be given voice; these elements should not be guided or constrained by traditional logic. The following March, Éluard disappeared. Relatives and friends were unable to locate him; obituaries appeared in the press. Alone, Éluard had departed Paris for Marseilles and sent his father a letter stating that he intended to travel around the world, visiting Malaysia, India, the Caribbean, New Zealand, Indonesia, and Singapore. This was a moment of personal crisis. Seven months later, Éluard appeared in Singapore, where he was met by Gala. The couple returned to France. There Éluard played an important role as supporter of the Surrealist movement, appearing in the first issue of the review La Révolution surréaliste as well as in nine of the remaining ten issues. Éluard’s concern for humankind, his rejection of bourgeois smugness and France’s colonial presence around the world, and his desire to improve the human condition led him in 1926 to join the French Communist Party.
At the end of the 1920’s, Éluard was forced to undergo frequent stays in a sanatorium in Switzerland, where both he and Gala received therapy for their pulmonary conditions. After a partnership of more than fifteen years, the couple were divorced in 1930. The same year, Éluard fell in love with Maria Benz, an Alsatian woman ten years younger than he, who was known as Nusch. They married in 1934.
In an untitled poem in L’Amour la poésie, his often-quoted line “La terre est bleue comme une orange” (the earth is blue like an orange) is a fine example of his poetic invention. The fundamental image is understandable: The sun is round like an orange. It is the simile “blue like an orange” that is puzzling. While the earth is indeed round like an orange, the comparison of “blue” and “orange” seems illogical. However, it is quite understandable visually because the earth seen from space is not only round like an orange but also bluish in color. From afar, the earth can, therefore, resemble a blue orange. This type of imagery is characteristic of Éluard’s poetry.
In 1942 Éluard rejoined the French Communist Party, from which he had been expelled in 1933. After the war, his international recognition was at its pinnacle. In November, 1946, Nusch died in Paris from a stroke. Éluard was devastated. The poet’s profound sense of loss colored the next several months of his life. However, many months later at the World Peace Council meeting in Mexico in 1949, Éluard, who was in attendance as a delegate, met Dominique Laure, born Odette Lemort, a thirty-five-year-old Frenchwoman. She would become his third wife in 1951. Éluard found once again the happiness of partnership, mutual inspiration, and shared ideology.
In September, 1952, Éluard suffered a heart attack. He died at his apartment outside Paris on November 18. His body lay in state for the crowds of thousands who wished to say good-bye to their friend and national poet. He was laid to rest in Paris’s Père-Lachaise cemetery without national honors, forbidden by the French government because of his Communist affiliation.
Éluard’s use of simple, evocative language is an integral part of his poetry. In addition to antithetical images derived from the notions of lightness and darkness, death and life, solitude and belonging, his poetry evokes images of the individual, the couple, and the collectivity. Unarguably, Éluard made a lasting and original contribution to twentieth century French poetry through his sensitive and perceptive renderings of human experiences, both joyous and melancholic.