Tristan Tzara in 1946

Terre sur terre (illustration)

Illustration from Terre sur terre (S735.c.94.47)

Many of the publications by French poet and essayist Tristan Tzara contain artwork by well-known artists of the time. Juan Gris, Paul Klee, Hans Arp, Salvador Dali, Henri Matisse, Max Ernst, Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso were all involved in joint publications with Tzara. Unfortunately none are owned by the University Library. The only early work by Tzara we have in the collections which also contains artwork is the 1946 title Terre sur terre, with drawings by André Masson (S735.c.94.47), which the Library bought in 1985.

During the German occupation of France Tzara determined to remain silent as a writer, but after the Liberation he quickly began to publish again. In August 1944 he had left Souillac for Toulouse, a centre of Resistance activity, where he joined the local branch of the Centre des Intellectuels and helped draft plans for a local museum to the Resistance. He returned to Paris late in 1945, though he would not regain his home and possessions until mid-1948. There were many hardships, but Tzara’s poetic voice had not been silenced by the war, and in 1946 he published three volumes of poetry, Terre sur terre, Le signe de vie and Entre-temps.

A copy of Entre-temps (In process.381) has just been added to the Library’s holdings, a new acquisition in the Liberation Collection. In this work Tzara collaborated with the sculptor and illustrator Henri Laurens, who contributed an etching and four drawings. Although the volume was favourably reviewed at the time by Georges-Emmanuel Clancier in the journal Fontaine, it was largely overlooked, in part because of the very small print run. Only 344 copies were published, and only one other copy is listed on COPAC, held by the library of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Entre temps (inscription)

Inscription from Entre temps (In process.381)

A rare text in its own right, Cambridge’s copy in the Liberation Collection is even more noteworthy. It is one of the 20 copies published on vellum “hors commerce” and has a manuscript dedication by Tzara which reads “À J. Marcenac. Fraternel souvenir de Tristan Tzara. Sept. 46”. The friend to whom Tzara gave this copy was Jean Marcenac (1913-1984). Marcenac was a poet, journalist and philosophy teacher, a friend of Paul Éluard, René Char, Louis Aragon and Elsa Triolet. He was a member of the Parti communiste français, and was prominent in the Resistance, later being awarded the Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur. Marcenac published several volumes of poetry, and was also notable for his translations and critical studies on Pablo Neruda. These are not currently held by the University Library, but we are now attempting to fill some of the gaps in our coverage.

David Lowe

One thought on “Tristan Tzara in 1946

  1. I read with interest the references to Jean Marcenac in this blog post. Back in 2013 I spent some time trying to find out the identity of the dedicatees of a volume of poetry by Paul Eluard which was an early acquisition in the Literature of the Liberation collection, but to no avail.

    Your post about Tristan Tzara has just given me the clue. Jean Marcenac is Jeannot and his wife Andrée Labry must be Dédée. If you google Jean Marcenac and Jeannot, Google Books mention three books where the authors say that Jean Marcenac was called Jeannot by his friends. One of the books, by Jacques Henric, is in the UL

    Eléonore Miguet

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