Glimpse at Jacques Prévert


Jacques Prévert, France's most widely read poet since Victor Hugo, was born in Paris in 1900. He left school in 1915 and worked at various jobs until 1920 when he served in the military in Lorraine and with the French occupation forces in Turkey.

In 1925 he began to associate with the surrealists, including André Breton and Louis Aragon. "Expelled" from this group by Breton in 1930, because of his "occupation or character", he responded with a savage satirical attack on Breton, "Death of a Gentleman". His first poems were published in the same year, and in 1931 there appeared his first major success: "Attempt to Describe a Dinner of Heads in Paris - France", subsequently published in Paroles.

In the 1930s he worked with a theatre company, the "October Group", linked to the Communist Party though not always reflecting the Party's views. In 1933 he attended the International Workers' Theatre Olympiad in Moscow for the première of his play, "The Battle of Fontenoy". In the same years he began writing film scripts, his first film ("It's In The Bag") appearing in 1932.

Paroles, Prévert's first collection of poetry, appeared late in 1945. Patched together by René Bertelé from forgotten newspapers and reviews, cabaret songs, and scribblings from the backs of envelopes and the paper tablecloths of cafés, Paroles is widely considered Prévert's best work. By the mid-1960s more than a million copies of it and other collections of his poems were in print.

Jacques Prévert died of lung cancer in 1977. Two further poetry collections, Soleil de nuit (1980) and La cinquième saison (1984) were published posthumously.


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