Isidore Isou  

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Isidore Isou (29 January 1925 – 28 July 2007), born Isidor Goldstein, was a Romanian-born French poet, dramaturge, novelist, film director, economist, and visual artist who lived in the 20th century. He was the founder of Lettrism, an art and literary movement which owed inspiration to Dada and Surrealism.

An important figure in the mid-20th Century avant-garde, he is remembered in the cinema world chiefly for his revolutionary 1951 film Traité de Bave et d'Eternité, while his political writings are seen as foreshadowing the May 1968 movements.



He was the founder of Lettrism, an art and literary movement which owed inspiration to Dada and Surrealism.

He moved to Paris at the end of World War II, having developed many concepts that intended as a total artistic renewing starting from their lower levels. He called himself a "Lettriste," a movement of which he was initially the only member (at the age of 16 he had published the Manifesto in 1942) and published a system of Lettrist hypergraphics. Others soon joined him, and the movement continues to grow, albeit at times under a confusing number of different names.

In the 1960s Lettriste, Lettriste-influenced works and Isodore Isou gained a great deal of respect in France. Guy Debord and Gil J. Wolman worked with Isou for a while, before breaking away to form the Lettrist International, which latter merged with the International movement for an imaginist Bauhaus, and the London Psychogeographical Committee to form the Situationist International, a dissident revolutionary group. This is how lettrist art influenced the posters, barricades, even clothing in the attempted revolution of 1968. Although it seemed a highly self-contained art in the post-war period, in 1968 it suddenly became more deeply involved in active social change than such movements as Existentialism and Surrealism, and came closer to producing actual transformation than these movements.

Isou’s was at the Sorbonne on 21 Oct. 2000. Crippled by ill health, he currently remains house-bound. Many his works, and those of the others, have recently been reprinted in new editions, together with much hitherto unpublished material, most notably Isou’s enormous (1390 page) La Créatique ou la Novatique (1941-1976) (éditions Al Dante, 2003).


Je préfère mon nouveau dégoût à l'ancien goût dégoûtant. ("I'd rather have my new distaste than the old distasteful taste.")

Published works

  • Les Champs de Force de la Peinture Lettriste, Avant- Garde, Paris, 1964.
  • Manifesto of Lettrist Poetry: A Commonplaces about Words.
  • Introduction à une Nouvelle Poésie et une Nouvelle Musique, Paris, Gallimard, 1947.
  • Les Journaux des Dieus, 1950/51
  • Isou, ou la mécanique des femmes (Isou, or the mechanics of women), (The Mechanics of Women), a sex manual and the first of several works of erotology that Isou declared a "useful contribution to the education of youth", wherein he claims to have bedded 375 women in the preceding four years, and offers to explain how (p. 9). The book was banned and Isou is briefly imprisoned.


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