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writings

  • "The bankers of language will always receive a little interest on a discussion"
    [Tristan Tzara, 'Monsieur AA l'antiphilosophe nous envoie ce manifeste [1920]', in Oeuvres complètes Tome I (Paris 1975) 376].
  • "To compose a Dadaist poem ... ": with this famous recipe, Tristan Tzara wanted to mislead the reader by offering, as in a mirror, an expected idea of a Dadaist poem that could be made in any which way. Now, if a certain element of chance does indeed figure in the writings of Tzara, it isn’t pointless: in order to unlock new meaning from the distortions practiced with language, the poem must just not consist of incoherent phrases strung together, but rise spontaneously out of the complexities of life.
  • While La Première et La Deuxième Aventure céleste de Monsieur Antipyrine, (the latter published in 1920 in Littérature and 391) are neither poetry nor theater despite their appearance, the Twenty-five poems, published in Zurich in 1918, belong by their title to a well-defined genre. But then again to question and renew that genre. The introduction of prosaic elements, the search for dissonance, the collages of diverse fragments, the clashes and collisions, create a meaning born more of perception and sensitivity than of logical thinking.
  • Cinéma calendrier du coeur abstrait. Maisons (Cinema calendar of the abstract heart. Houses) was published by Sans Pareil in Paris in 1920. This suite of 21 short poems resorts to dislocation less than the preceding texts. The phrases flow, but the meaning drifts. Through sometimes grotesque alliterations bouncing between phonemes and the high speed projection of images, the sense of the poems does not appear immediately, but reveals itself by surprise, by default. Maisons, the second part of the volume, consists of a series of poems dedicated to friends, and contains abstract evocations of men and their mental landscapes.
  • In 1923, Tzara assembled his other poems, written between 1912 and 1922 and published in various journals, into a book entitled De nos oiseaux that would only appear in bookstores in 1929. Nevertheless, this book is as important as its two predecessors: onomatopoeia and expressions coming from the poèmes 'nègres' that Tzara translated, poem-compositions, brief texts, quasi-lyrical poems, humor, and word distortions confer to Tzara’s poems a range and breadth which surpasses the provocative character of Dada.
  • Following the Aventures célestes de Monsieur Antipyrine, performed in Paris in 1920, Tzara directly tackled the genre of theater with Le Coeur à gaz, produced at the Galerie Montaigne in June 1921, and again during the Soirée du Coeur à Barbe in July 1923, and published in Berlin in Der Sturm in March 1922. The characters of this 'play' devote themselves to lifeless dialogs, playing with echoes and repetition in order to translate an absurd and impossible scene, that of social communication.
  • Tzara also wished to express – without theorizing – what was and what wasn’t Dada. Using different notes and articles published in journals, and then reassembled in Lampisteries (that would only be published in 1963 by Jean-Jacques Pauvert), the Manifestos constituted another facet of his life’s work.
  • The Seven Dada Manifestos were published in 1924 in Paris by Jean Budry. The most resounding (and the foundation for the rest) was the 'Manifesto 1918', read in Zurich in March 1918, and published in the third edition of the magazine Dada in December of the same year. "There is great negative and destructive work to accomplish," the Manifesto announced, and immediately launched an attack on the fallacious logic and the foundations of society, as well as on everything that existed to that point, and extolling only 'LIFE'.
  • The other great manifesto was 'Dada manifeste sur l'amour faible et l'amour amer', read in Paris in December 1920. In this humorous and ironic text, Tzara seemed to defend Dada against all confinement: Dada is nothing; Dada is everything by being nothing. It is impossible to connect it to anything or to relate it to any system, without misrepresenting it. The line of reasoning became: "Dada doubts everything."
  • In contrast to Breton, Aragon or Eluard, to whom Dada constituted a sort of rite of passage allowing them to undo the influences of their youth, Tzara created from this period on an entirely new poetry. Questioning "language as an agent for communication between individuals" [Tritan Tzara, Oeuvres complètes. T. V / texte établie par Henri Béhar (Flammarion : Paris 1982) 67] to find a language closer to reality, is this not the chosen path for a large part of contemporary poetry?
  • TEXT CREDITS
    Rémi Froger, 'Tristan Tzara / Writings', translated from the French text, published in the catalogue Dada (Editions du Centre Pompidou : Paris 2005) 954-961. The translation was part of the Press Pack, published by MNAM Centre Pompidou 2005, p. 65-66 [Courtesy MNAM Centre Pompidou].
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