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Louis Aragon


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French poet, novelist, journalist, and essayist.

Aragon was born in Paris, where as a young man he became involved with dadaism and surrealism. With André Breton and Philippe Soupault he co-founded the surrealist review Littérature in 1919. His first collection of poetry, Feu de joie, appeared in 1920; this was followed by Le Mouvement perpétuel (1925) and La Grande Gaîté (1929). In 1926 he produced his first novel, Le Paysan de Paris, which celebrated in surrealist terms the everyday wonders of the city. Together with his essays in Traité du style (1928), these works established Aragon as a leading surrealist writer.

In 1927 Aragon joined the Communist Party. A visit to the Soviet Union in 1930 so impressed him that he subsequently broke off his association with the surrealists and committed himself to writing for the communist cause, becoming editor of the party newspaper, Ce Soir, in 1937. Meanwhile, in 1928, he had met the Russian-born writer Elsa Triolet, who was to become his lifelong companion and the inspiration for such lyric poems as Les Yeux d'Elsa (1942), Elsa (1959), and Le Fou d'Elsa (1963).

During World War II Aragon was an active member of the intellectual Resistance, publishing the intensely patriotic poems of Le Crève-coeur (1941) and La Diane française (1945). Le Monde réel (1933–44), a cycle of four novels, and the six volumes of Les Communistes (1949–51) are chronicles of the march of communism, laden with Marxist propaganda. La Semaine sainte (1958; translated as Holy Week, 1961), one of Aragon's best-known novels, is a Marxist view of the France of 1815. In 1953 Aragon founded the communist weekly Les Lettres Françaises, a review of arts and literature.

A versatile and prolific writer in a career spanning more than sixty years, Aragon also produced such works as a poetic autobiography, Le Roman inachevé (1956), and a collection of critical essays on classical authors, La Lumière de Stendhal (1954).

Subjects: Literature

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