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Éluard circa 1930
|Born||Eugène Émile Paul Grindel
14 December 1895
|Died||18 November 1952
Éluard was born in
There he met a young Russian girl of his age, Helena Diakonova, whom he nicknamed
In April 1914, Paul Éluard and Gala were both declared healthy again and sent home, to Paris and Moscow respectively. The separation was brutal. Europe was on the brink of war. Paul was mobilised. He passed his physical and was assigned to the auxiliary services because of his poor health. He suffered from migraine, bronchitis, cerebral anaemia and chronic appendicitis and spent most of 1915 under treatment in a military hospital not far from home. Paul’s mother came to visit him and he talked for hours about his beloved, opening his heart to her and slowly rallying her to his cause. Her initial hostility towards Gala slowly faded away, and she started calling her “the little Russian”. However, Paul’s father, who had also been mobilised, remained adamant that she could not come to Paris.
In Moscow, Gala listened to no one. Her love for Paul gave her an unshakable faith that they would be reunited again. She wrote to Paul’s mother to befriend her and finally convinced her stepfather to let her go to Paris to study French at the Sorbonne. She took a boat to Helsinki, then reached Stockholm before embarking for England. Once in London, she took a train to Southampton before taking a boat to rally Dieppe, and finally took a train to Paris.
In June 1917, Paul was sent to Hargnicourt to work in one of the military evacuation hospital, 10 kilometres from the front line. The ‘poet’ was given a chair, a desk and a pen to painfully write to the families of the dead and the wounded. He wrote more than 150 letters a day. At night he dug graves to bury the dead. For the first time since Clavadel, shaken by the horrors of the war, Paul started writing verses again. Gala wrote to him “I promise you our life will be glorious and magnificent”.
On 14 December 1917, Paul Éluard turned 21 and wrote to his mother “I can assure you, that your approval will be infinitely precious to me. However, for all our sakes, nothing will change my mind”. He married Gala on 20 February 1918. However, he announced to his parents and newlywed wife that when he went back to the front line he would voluntarily join the “real soldiers” in the trenches. Gala protested and threatened to go back to Russia to become a nurse on the Russian front. But nothing would do, and for the first time Paul resisted her. “Let me live a tougher life”, he wrote her, “less like a servant, less like a domestic”. Two days after getting married, Paul left for the front line.
There, living conditions were severe. Éluard wrote to his parents “Even the strongest are falling. We advanced 50 kilometres, three days without bread or wine.” His health suffered. On 20 March 1917 he was sent to a military hospital with incipient pleurisy.
On 10 May 1918 Gala gave birth to a baby girl who was eventually named Cecile (died 2016).
In 1919, Éluard wrote to Gala: “War is coming to an end. We will now fight for happiness after having fought for Life”. Waiting to be sent home, he published "Duty and Anxiety" and "Little Poems for Peace". Following the advice of his publisher, he sent the poems to various personalities of the literary world who took a stand against the war. Gala helped him to prepare and send the letters. In 1919,
The meeting with Paul took place in March 1919. Paul was intimidated. He was shy and blushing. He was still a soldier and wearing his war uniform. It was the best omen for the three poets, who all showed great courage during the war. Paul brought with him his poems and read them to the ‘jury’. They were seduced by the young man and liked his work. They decided to publish one of his texts in the next edition of Literature.
Wounded and scarred by the war [
In November 1921, Paul Éluard and his wife visited
Paul and Gala moved to a house just outside Paris and were joined by Max Ernst, who entered France illegally, using Éluard's passport. Jean Paulhan once more helped Paul by providing Max Ernst with fake identity papers. Paul, Max and Gala entered into a
Éluard, depressed, wrote "Dying of not Dying". On 24 March 1924, Éluard disappeared. No one knew where he was. The night before he had had a worrisome meeting with Louis Aragon during which he confessed that he wanted to put an end to a present that tortured him. For his friends, Paul was gone forever. But Paul wrote to Gala and four months later she bought a ticket to go and find him and bring him back, locating him in
Éluard supported the
Moroccan revolution, as early as 1925, and in January 1927 he joined the communist party together with Louis Aragon, Breton,
In 1928 he had another bout of
The period from 1931 to 1935 were among his happiest years. He was excluded from the Communist Party. He traveled through Europe as an ambassador of the
Mobilized in September 1939, he moved to Paris with Nusch after the
In 1943, together with
On 28 November 1946, during a stay in
His grief at the premature death of his wife Nusch in 1946 inspired the work "Le temps déborde" in 1947 as well as "De l'horizon à l'horizon de tous", which traced the path that led Éluard from suffering to hope.
The principles of peace, self-government, and liberty became his new passion. He was a member of the Congress of
Intellectuals for Peace in
He later eulogised
Paul Éluard died from a heart attack on 18 November 1952 at his home, 52 avenue de Gravelle in Charenton-le-Pont. His funeral was held in the Père-Lachaise cemetery, and organized by the Communist Party, the French government having refused to organise a national funeral for political reasons. A crowd of thousands spontaneously gathered in the streets of Paris to accompany Eluard's casket to the cemetery. That day Robert Sabatier wrote: "the whole world was mourning".