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The page of Apollinaire, Guillaume, English biography

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Apollinaire, Guillaume
(1880–1918)

Biography

Apollinaire, Guillaume (1880-1918), French poet, novelist, dramatist, and art and literary critic. He became a leader of the avant-garde in Paris in the early 20th century and is believed to have coined the term surrealist.

Wilhelm Albert Wladimir Alexander Apollinaris de Kostrowitzky was born in Rome to a Polish mother and an Italian father. He was educated at the Lycée Saint-Charles in Monaco.

After youthful travels in Europe, he settled in Paris, France, in 1902 and quickly became a leader of the literary avant-garde under the pseudonym Guillaume Apollinaire. He was an advocate of symbolism and a friend of symbolist writers (see Symbolist Movement).

This late 19th-century movement rejected its predecessors' rules for poetic style and proclaimed the imagination to be the source of all ideas. Apollinaire also championed cubist painters and Cubism, a revolutionary style of the early 20th century that marked the beginning of abstraction in painting. He was wounded in 1916 while fighting in World War I and died in the great influenza epidemic of 1918.

Apollinaire was fascinated by the relationships between the arts, especially between poetry and painting, and his own poems are very pictorial. Calligrammes: poèmes de la paix et de la guerre (1918; translated as Calligrammes, 1980) contains poems whose printed shapes visually imitate the subjects of the poems. For example, a poem about a fountain is shaped on the page like a fountain.

Apollinaire's writing reflects also his fascination with the modern world. The Eiffel Tower, airplanes, and cosmopolitanism are among the motifs in his masterpiece collection, Alcools, poèmes (1913); (translated 1964). In his novel Le poète assassiné (1913); The Poet Assassinated, (1923), he rejected the realist novel of the 19th century by writing a work of fantasy and satire. His Méditations esthétiques: les peintres cubistes (1913); The Cubist Painters, (1949), a brilliant work of art criticism, helped the world understand Spanish painter and sculptor Pablo Picasso and other modern artists. His play Les mamelles de Tirésias (first performed 1917); published (1918); The Breasts of Tiresias, (1966) anticipates both surrealism, a literary and artistic movement that emphasized the role of the subconscious in creativity, and the theater of the absurd, drama that employs illogical situations to show the absurdity and futility of life in an unpredictable world. The play and its preface, which introduced surrealist principles, had a significant influence on theorists and dramatists such as Antonin Artaud and Eugène Ionesco.

Reference: Apollinaire, Guillaume Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2001 © 1997-2000
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