Surrealist writers

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Between 1924 and 1945 something interesting was happening in art and literature: the surrealism movement. Surrealism is defined as a literary style that focuses on non sequitur and unexpected juxtapositions, or contrasts between two different things. It became popular first in Paris, and then spread to other countries. Surrealism became popular in New York after many surrealists fled World War II.

André Breton

André Breton was known as the Pope of Surrealism. Born February 19, 1896, he was the founder of the surrealist movement. His Manifesto of Surrealism was hugely popular and he also wrote poetry. He died on September 28, 1966.


Salvador Dali was born on May 11, 1904 in Spain. Though he was most famous for his many surrealist paintings, he also helped write the influential Hidden Faces. His most famous literary work was the essay The Conquest of the Irrational, in which he wrote about his paranoic-critical technique, which is still in use today. He died on January 23, 1989.

De Chirico

Giorgio de Chirico was born on July 10, 1888. Like Dali, he was more known for his paintings. However, he did write various prose pieces that were translated into multiple languages, and he wrote a short novel Hebdomeros. He helped found the scuola metafisica art movement. He died on November 20, 1978.


Robert Desnos was a French poet who was a key member of the surrealist movement. Born July 4, 1900 in Paris, he was known for falling into “trances” at will in order to write. His famous works include Le Trait d’union and The Night of Loveless Nights. Interestingly, he disagreed with the movement’s involvement in politics and was “expelled” from it. He died June 8, 1945.


Marcel Duchamp was born on July 28, 1887. His work influenced the very development of post-World War I art. His works include Rrose Selavy and The Green Box. Duchamp also painted regularly. He died on October 2, 1968.


Julien Michel Leiris, known as Michel Leiris, was born on April 20, 1901 in Paris. His first surreal novel was Aurora. Leiris was also know for co-writing Les Temps Modernes with Sartre, and Documents with Bataille. He was one of the leaders of the surrealist movement until he had a falling out with Breton. He passed away on September 30, 1990.


Benjamin Peret was born on July 4, 1899 in France. Considered one of the founders of the movement, he was also thought of as the “best of the Surrealist poets.” He wrote a novel, Death to the Pigs and to the Field of Glory , in addition to his many poems. He died on September 18, 1959.


Born on February 21, 1903 Raymon Queneau wrote the novel Le chiendent as well as many other books of poems. He is credited with confounding the Oulipo movement in 1960s France. His most famous book is Exercises in Style. Queneau never fully joined the surrealists because of their ultra-left politics. He passed away on October 25, 1976.

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