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Éluard circa 1930
|Born||Eugène Émile Paul Grindel
14 December 1895
|Died||18 November 1952
|Spouse||Gala Dalí, Maria Benz (Nusch)|
Éluard was born in Saint-Denis, Seine-Saint-Denis, France, the son of Eugène Clément Grindel and wife Jeanne-Marie Cousin. His father was an accountant when Paul was born but soon opened a real estate agency. His mother was a seamstress. Around 1908, the family moved to Paris, rue Louis Blanc. Éluard attended the local school in Aulnay-sous-Bois before obtaining a scholarship to attend the Ecole Superieure de Colbert. At the age of 16, he contracted tuberculosis, interrupted his studies, and remained hospitalized until April 1914 in the Clavadel sanatorium near Davos.
There he met a young Russian girl of his age, Helena Diakonova, whom he nicknamed Gala. He confided in her of his dream of becoming a poet, of his admiration for “poets dead of hunger, sizzling dreams” and of his parents’ disapproval. She wrote to him that “you will become a great poet”. They became inseparable. She believed in him and gave him the confidence and encouragement and provided him with the sense of security he needed to write. She listened and was involved in the creation of his verses. She became his muse and the critic, always honest, and told him which images she preferred, which verses she disliked. He was then particularly inspired by Walt Whitman. In Clavadel, Éluard also met the Brazilian poet Manuel Bandeira. They became friends during their hospitalization in the sanatorium, and kept in touch by mail after returning to their respective countries.
In April 1914, Paul Éluard and Gala were both declared healthy again and sent home, to Paris and Moscow respectively. The separation was brutal. Europe was on the brink of war. Paul was mobilised. He passed his physical and was assigned to the auxiliary services because of his poor health. He suffered from migraine, bronchitis, cerebral anaemia and chronic appendicitis and spent most of 1915 under treatment in a military hospital not far from home. Paul’s mother came to visit him and he talked for hours about his beloved, opening his heart to her and slowly rallying her to his cause. Her initial hostility towards Gala slowly faded away, and she started calling her “the little Russian”. However, Paul’s father, who had also been mobilised, remained adamant that she could not come to Paris.
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