July 21, 2022

Louis Aragon (France) 1897-1982

Louis Aragon (France)



Born in Paris in 1897, Aragon was raised by his mother and maternal grandmother, taught to believe the couple as his sister and foster mother. Aragon's father, Louis Andrieux, had been a senator for Forcalquier. At 30 years older than the boy's mother, Andrieux was married. Only at age 19, as he was about to leave as soldier in World War I, was he told the truth, and the fact that Andrieux would never recognize his son came later to influence Aragon's writing.

     Involved with Dadaism from 1919 to 1924, Aragon became a founding member of Surrealism in 1924, writing with André Breton and Philippe Soupault under the pen-name of "Aragon."

     During that same period the writer joined as "fellow traveller" the French Communits Party; he joined the party in 1927, and from 1933 on wrote for the party's newspaper, L'Humanité. He would remain a member for the rest of his life, writing several political poems. Yet Aragon remained critical of the USSR, particularly after Nikita Khrushchev faulted Joseph Stalin's "personality cult" in the 1956 20th Congress of Writers for the Defence of Culture.

     In 1939 Aragon married the Russian author Elsa Triolet, sister of Mayakovsky's common-law wife, Lilya Brik. The writer had met her in 1928, and immediately became is literary muse. Together they collaborated in the left-wing French media, going underground for most of the Nazi occupation. The same year as his marriage Aragon was mobilized and awarded the military medal Croix de guerre for his bravery. After the May 1940 defeat, the couple found refuge in the Southern Zone, and, along with Robert Desnos, Paul Éluard, Jean Prévoist and Jean-Pierre Rosnay, joined the Resistance.

     During the war Aragon wrote for the underground Les Éditions de Minuit, working with Elsa to set up a National Front of Writers in the South. Much of his writing during this period related to the war and the heroes he witnessed. 

     Throughout his life Aragon continued to be politically involved. After the death of his wife in June of 1970, Aragon announced that he was bisexual, appearing at gay pride parades in a pink convertible.

      During all these years Aragon produced a remarkable series of experimental fictions, poems, and essays, including the fictions Les Aventures de Télémaque (1921), Le Libertinage (1924), Le Paysan de Paris (1926), Les Beaux Quartiers (1936), Les Communistes (6 volumes), 1949-1951 and 1966-1967, and La Semaine Sainte (1958). Among his numerous books of poetry are Feu de joie of 1919, Le Mouvement perpétuel (1926), La Grande Gaîté (1929), Le Crève-Cœur (1941), Cantique à Elsa (1942), Les Yeux d'Elsa (1942), and Le Fou d'Elsa (1963).

     Louis Aragon died on December 24, 1982. He was buried in the park of Moulin de Villeneuve on his property in Saint-Arnoult-en-Eveline, next to his wife.




Le Musée Grévin (as François la Colère) (Paris: Éditions de Minuit); La rose et le réséda; Feu de joie (1919); Le Mouvement perpétuel (1926); La Grande Gaîté (1929); Persécuté persécuteur (Paris: Éditions surréalistes, 1931); Hourra l'Oural (Paris: Denoël, 1934); Le Crève-Cœur (Paris: Gallimard, 1941); Cantique à Elsa (1942); Les Yeux d'Elsa (Paris: Éditions Seghers, 1942); Brocéliande (1942); Le Musée Grevin (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1943); La Diane française (Paris: P. Seghers, 1945); En étrange pays dans mon pays lui-même (1945); Le Nouveau Crève-Cœur (Paris: Gallimard, 1948); Les yeux et la mémoire, poème (Paris: Gallimard, 1954); Le Roman inachevé (Paris: Gallimard,1956); Elsa (Paris: Gallimard, 1959); Les Poètes (Paris: Gallimard, 1960); Le Fou d'Elsa (Paris: Gallimard, 1963); Il ne m'est Paris que d'Elsa (Paris: R. Laffont, 1965); Les Chambres, poème du temps qui ne passe pas (Paris: Éditeurs français réunis, 1969); Poésies, anthlogie 1917-1960 (Paris: Gallimard, 1960)





They restored man to the earth

They said you will eat

And you will eat

They cast the heavens to the earth

They said The gods will perish

And the gods will perish

They made a building site of the earth

They said The weather will be beautiful

And the weather will be beautiful

They opened a hole on the earth

They said The flame will burst forth

And the flame will burst forth

Speaking to the masters of the earth

They said You will give way

And you will give way

They took in their hands the earth

They said The black shall be white

And the black shall be white

Glory on the lands and the earth

To the sun of Bolshevik days

And Glory to the Bolsheviks


—Translated from the French by Mitch Abidor

(from Hourra l'Oural, 1934)




Je vais te dire un grand secret Le temps c'est toi

Le temps est femme Il a

Besoin qu'on le courtise et qu'on s'asseye

A ses pieds le temps comme une robe à défaire

Le temps comme une chevelure sans fin


Un miroir que le souffle embue et désembue

Le temps c'est toi qui dors à l'aube où je m'éveille

C'est toi comme un couteau traversant mon gosier

Oh que ne puis-je dire ce tourment du temps qui ne passe point

Ce tourment du temps arrêté comme le sang dans les vaisseaux bleus

Et c'est bien pire que le désir interminablement non satisfait

Que cette soif de l'œil quand tu marches dans la pièce

Et je sais qu'il ne faut pas rompre l'enchantement

Bien pire que de te sentir étrangère


La tête ailleurs et le cœur dans un autre siècle déjà

Mon Dieu que les mots sont lourds Il s'agit bien de cela

Mon amour au delà du plaisir mon amour hors de portée aujourd'hui de l'atteinte

Toi qui bats à ma tempe horloge

Et si tu ne respires pas j'étouffe

Et sur ma chair Hèsite et se pose ton pas


Je vais te dire un grand secret Toute parole

A ma lèvre est une pauvresse qui mendie

Une misère pour tes mains une chose qui noircit sous ton regard

Et c'est pourquoi je dis si souvent que je t'aime

Faute d'un cristal assez clair d'une phrase que tu mettrais à ton cou

Ne t'offense pas de mon parler vulgaire Il est

L'eau simple qui fait ce bruit désagréable dans le feu


Je vais te dire un grand secret Je ne sais pas

Parler du temps qui te ressemble

Je ne sais pas parler de toi je fais semblant

Comme ceux très longtemps sur le quai d'une gare

Qui agitent la main après que les trains sont partis

Et le poignet s'éteint du poids nouveau des larmes


Je vais te dire un grand secret J'ai peur de toi

Peur de ce qui t'accompagne au soir vers les fenêtres

Des gestes que tu fais des mots qu'on ne dit pas

J'ai peur du temps rapide et lent j'ai peur de toi

Je vais te dire un grand secret Ferme les portes

Il est plus facile de mourir que d'aimer

C'est pourquoi je me donne le mal de vivre

Mon amour





I'm going to tell you a great secret You are time

Time is a woman It needs

To be fawned over and bowed down to

Time like a dress to be undone

Time like endless tresses


A mirror misted and demisted by breath

You are time asleep at dawn when I rise

You're time like a knife across my gullet

O how I am unable to tell this torment of time unpassing

This torment of time halted like blood in blue vessels

Far worse than desire forever unmet

Than the thirst of the eye when you walk into the room

And my knowing not to break the spell

Far worse than feeling you a stranger


Your mind elsewhere and your heart already in a different century

My God how words are heavy That's what it's all about then

My love beyond pleasure my love out of reach today unattained

You swat at my clock temples

And if you fail to breathe I suffocate

And on my flesh your step waits and comes to rest


I'm going to tell you a great secret Every word

On my lips is stricken with poverty, begging

A trifle for your hands something glowing black below your stare

And this is why I say so often that I love you

For lack of a crystal clear enough of a phrase you'd place around your neck

Don't mind the baseness of my language It is

Plain water making that awful noise in the fire



I'm going to tell you a great secret I don't know how

To speak of the time you seem to be

I don't know how to speak of you I make believe

Like those who remain so long on the platform in the station

Waving their hands after the trains have left

The wrist fading out under the new weight of tears


I'm going to tell you a great secret I fear you

Fear what goes with you to the window in the evening

The gestures you make with unsaid words

I fear time rapid and slow I fear you

I'm going to tell you a great secret Close the doors

It's easier to die than to love

That's why I take such pains to go on living

My love


Translated from the French by Christophe Brunski

(from Elsa, 1959)



English language copyrights (c)2011 by Mitch Abidor and Christophe Brunski.

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