Tristan Tzara  

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"Mr. Tzara had no part in the invention of the word Dada — as attested ... little hand in writing the "Dada Manifesto 1918" [...] The paternity of the manifesto is, in any case, formally claimed by Val Serner."--"After Dada" (1922) by André Breton, cited in The Lost Steps (1996) by Breton

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Tristan Tzara (1896 – 1963) was a Romanian writer known for his involvement with the Dada movement.

Under the influence of Adrian Maniu, the adolescent Tzara became interested in Symbolism and co-founded the magazine Simbolul with Ion Vinea (with whom he also wrote experimental poetry) and painter Marcel Janco.

During World War I, after briefly collaborating on Vinea's Chemarea, he joined Janco in Switzerland. There, Tzara's shows at the Cabaret Voltaire and Zunfthaus zur Waag, as well as his poetry and art manifestos, became a main feature of early Dadaism. His work represented Dada's nihilistic side, in contrast with the more moderate approach favored by Hugo Ball.

After moving to Paris in 1919, Tzara, by then one of the "presidents of Dada", joined the staff of Littérature magazine, which marked the first step in the movement's evolution toward Surrealism. He was involved in the major polemics which led to Dada's split, defending his principles against André Breton and Francis Picabia, and, in Romania, against the eclectic modernism of Vinea and Janco. This personal vision on art defined his Dadaist plays The Gas Heart (1921) and Handkerchief of Clouds (1924). A forerunner of automatist techniques, Tzara eventually aligned himself with Breton's Surrealism, and under its influence wrote his celebrated utopian poem "The Approximate Man".

During the final part of his career, Tzara combined his humanist and anti-fascist perspective with a communist vision, joining the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War and the French Resistance during World War II, and serving a term in the National Assembly. Having spoken in favor of liberalization in the People's Republic of Hungary just before the Revolution of 1956, he distanced himself from the French Communist Party, of which he was by then a member. In 1960, he was among the intellectuals who protested against French actions in the Algerian War.

Tristan Tzara was an influential author and performer, whose contribution is credited with having created a connection from Cubism and Futurism to the Beat Generation, Situationism and various currents in rock music. The friend and collaborator of many modernist figures, he was the lover of dancer Maja Kruscek in his early youth and was later married to Swedish artist and poet Greta Knutson.

Life and work

Tzara was born in Moineşti, Bacău, Romania to a family of Romanian-speaking Jewish ancestry. Tzara wrote the first Dada texts, La Première Aventure céleste de Monsieur Antipyrine (The First Heavenly Adventure of Mr. Antipyrine) (1916), Vingt-cinq poèmes (Twenty-Five Poems) (1918) [1], and the movement's manifestos, Sept manifestes Dada (Seven Dada Manifestos)[2] (1924).

In Paris he engaged in tumultuous activities with Dadaists André Breton, Philippe Soupault, and Louis Aragon to shock the public and to disintegrate the structures of language.

In late 1929, weary of nihilism and destruction, he joined his friends in the more constructive activities of Surrealism. He devoted much of his time to the reconciliation of Surrealism and Marxism and joined the French Communist Party in 1937. He was active in the French Resistance movement during World War II. He left the Communist Party in 1956, in protest against the Soviet quelling of the Hungarian Revolution.

His political commitments brought him closer to his fellow human beings, and he gradually matured into a lyrical poet. His poems revealed the anguish of his soul, caught between revolt and wonderment at the daily tragedy of the human condition. His mature works started with L'Homme approximatif (The Approximate Man) (1931), and continued with Parler seul (Speaking Alone) (1950), and La Face intérieure (The Inner Face) (1953). In these, the anarchically scrambled words of Dada were replaced with a difficult but humanized language. He died in Paris and was interred there in the Cimetière du Montparnasse.

See also

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