Robert Desnos was born in Paris on 4 July 1900. He attended commercial college and worked as a clerk before becoming a literary columnist for the newspaper Paris-Soir. His first poems were published in 1917 in La Tribune des Jeunes (Platform for Youth) and in 1922 he published his first book – a collection of surrealistic aphorisms. In 1921-22 he served two years of compulsory military service in the French army, in France and Morocco. Between 1920 and 1930 he published several books of poetry, three novels, and in 1932 started broadcasting on radio.

On the outbreak of war Desnos served in the French Army, returning to Paris under the German occupation and becoming an active member of the French Resistance; he published a number of articles under various pseudonyms subtly mocking the Nazis. These, combined with his work for the Resistance, led to his arrest in February 1944. Initially deported to Auschwitz, Desnos was later sent to Buchenwald, Flossenburg and, finally, to Theresienstadt in occupied Czechoslovakia in 1945. He died from typhoid on 8 June 1945, only weeks after the camp’s liberation.

Desnos published several volumes of poetry during the war and it is believed that during his imprisonment he continued to write poems which were accidentally destroyed after his death.

Robert Desnos’ Poems

Resources for Robert Desnos

Robert Desnos Facebook page

Les amis du Robert Desnos website

22 Shorter Pieces in Translation