Roger Vitrac  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Roger Vitrac (1899– 22 January 1952, aged 52) was a French surrealist playwright and poet.

Born in Pinsac, Roger Vitrac moved to Paris in 1910. As a young man, he was influenced by symbolism and the writings of Lautréamont and Alfred Jarry, and he developed a passion for theatre and poetry. A year after his baccalauréat, he published a collection of poems, Le Faune noir.

During his three year long military service, he met Marcel Arland, François Baron, Georges Limbour and René Crevel, who together founded the literary revue, Aventure. Through the group, Vitrac met André Breton and Louis Aragon at Café Certa in 1921, where many Dada activities took place until it became one of the surrealist group's headquarters. In the early twenties, Vitrac joined the surrealist movement and contributed to the first few editions of La Révolution Surréaliste. Slowly segregated from the group along with Antonin Artaud, together they created the Théatre Alfred-Jarry in 1926, where they produced some of their most important plays such as The Mysteries of Love (Les Mystères de l'amour, 1927) and Victor, or Power to the Children (Victor ou les enfants au pouvoir, 1928), setting the tone for the Theatre of the Absurd, twenty years before Ionesco. The Cambridge Guide to Theatre describes The Mysteries of Love as a masterpiece of surrealist theatre. It is now considered a key play in 20th-century French theatre.

Vitrac joined Georges Bataille as one of the signaturies of Un Cadavre against Breton and contributed to Documents with articles on "Gaston-Louis Roux" (1929, issue 7), "The Abduction of the Sabines" (1930, issue 6) and a poem, "Humorage to Picasso" (1930, issue 3), dedicated to the artist. From 1931, he worked as a journalist while further exploring burlesque style playwriting, which often operated between boulevard comedy and intimate tragedy. His multi-thematic Coup de Trafalgar (1934) and Les Demoiselles du large (1938) gained as little recognition as his more slapstick plays such Le Loup-Garou (1939) and Le Sabre de mon père (1951).

Only after his death did Vitrac reached popular stardom status with Jean Anouilh's 1962 production of Victor, or Power to the Children.

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