Paul Eluard was born in Saint-Denis, Seine-Saint-Denis, France, the son of Clément Grindel and wife Jeanne Cousin. At age 16 he contracted tuberculosis and interrupted his studies. He met Gala, born Elena Ivanovna Diakonova, who he married in 1917, in the Swiss sanatorium of Davos. Together they had a daughter named Cécile. Around this time Éluard wrote his first poems. He was particularly inspired by Walt Whitman. In 1918, Jean Paulhan “discovered” him and introduced him to André Breton and Louis Aragon. After having collaborated earlier with German Dadaist Max Ernst in 1921, in 1922 Ernst entered France illegally and entered into a menage a trois living arrangement with Éluard and Gala.
After a marital crisis, he traveled, returning to France in 1924. Éluard's writings of this period reflect his tumultuous experiences. In 1929 he had another bout of tuberculosis and separated from Gala when she left him for Salvador Dalí.
In 1934, he married Nusch (Maria Benz), a model and a friend of his friends Man Ray and Pablo Picasso, who was considered somewhat of a mascot of the surrealist movement. During World War II, he was involved in the French Resistance, during which time he wrote Liberty (1942), Les sept poèmes d'amour en guerre (1944) and En avril 1944: Paris respirait encore! (1945, illustrated by Jean Hugo).
He joined the French Communist Party in 1942, which led to his break from the Surrealists, and he later eulogised Joseph Stalin in his political writings. Milan Kundera has recalled he was shocked when he heard of Éluard's public approval of the hanging of Éluard's friend, the Prague writer Zavis Kalandra in 1950.
His grief at the premature death of his wife Nusch in 1946 inspired the work "Le temps déborde" in 1947. The principles of peace, self-government, and liberty became his new passion. He was a member of the Congress of Intellectuals for Peace in Wroc?aw in 1948, which he persuaded Pablo Picasso to participate in.
Éluard met his last wife, Dominique Laure, at the Congress of Peace in Mexico in 1949. They married in 1951. He dedicated his work The Phoenix to her.
Paul Éluard died from a heart attack in November 1952. His funeral was held in Charenton-le-Pont, and organized by the Communist Party.
He is buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery.
Last updated August 30, 2011