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Tristan Tzara

(1896 - 1963)

TZARA, TRISTAN (originally Sami Rosenstein; 1896–1963), Romanian and French poet. Born in Moinesti, Romania, Tzara was one of several Jews who enjoyed literary repute both in their native country and in their adopted land, France. His earliest poems in Romanian appeared in 1912 (under the pen name S. Samiro) in Simbolul, a short-lived review which he founded together with the poet Ion Vinea (1895–1964). Tzara's symbolist verse was thereafter published in other leading Romanian periodicals and its unusual imagery already heralded "the great Faun of poetry" – a title which the French writer Louis Aragon was later to bestow on him. In 1916 Tzara left Romania, settling first in Zurich and, three years later, in Paris. He continued to write Romanian poetry, however, publishing his work in avant-garde reviews, mainly in Unu. His collected Romanian verse, edited by Unu's chief editor, Sasa *Pana , appeared as Primele poeme ("First Poems," 1934). In Romania Tzara exerted a powerful influence on the younger generation of poets.

In Zurich, Tzara was co-founder of the Dada movement and editor of its official organ. Until the rise of surrealism in 1924, Dada was a literary and artistic sensation, making a "clean slate" of traditional forms, dislocating the rules of language and logic, and transforming poetry into an ideological weapon. Some of Tzara's collections of this period are Vingtcinq poèmes (1918) and Cinéma, calendrier du coeur abstrait (1920). In the course of time, his poetic tone became more sober and restrained, revealing genuine poetic gifts. In 1931 Tzara turned to surrealism with L'Homme approximatif and published an important theoretical essay, Sur la situation de la poésie. He became a Communist in 1935 and was active in the French underground during World War II. There is little trace of Jewish sentiment or expression in his verse, but Tzara became increasingly preoccupied with an imminent universal catastrophe. His later works include Oboivent les loups (1932); L'Antitête (1933), essays; Le coeur à gaz (1946); La Fuite (1947), a drama; La Face intérieure (1953); and Parler seul (1950). In 1970 La Monnaie de Paris stamped a medal with the effigy of Tristan Tzara "the father of dadaism" engraved by Andre-Henri Torcheux.


E. Lovinescu, Istoria literaturii române contemporane, 3 (1927), 441; G. Călinescu, Istoria literaturii române… (1941), 803; R. Lacôte and G. Haldas (eds.), Tristan Tzara (19602).

[Wladimir Rabi /

Dora Litani-Littman]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.