Tristan Tzara speaks about the Dada movement

16 septembre 1963
02m 09s
Ref. 00022


Summary :

In this interview, Tristan Tzara talks about the birth of the Dada movement in Switzerland, the support of the review Littérature directed by Aragon, Soupault and Breton, the content of this movement's programme, and the quarter of Montparnasse where all the intellectuals met.

Media type :
Broadcast date :
16 septembre 1963
Source :
Themes :


Polish writer Tristan Tzara, born as Samuel Rosenstock, was born in 1896.

His name is definitely linked to the Dada. In fact, he's considered to be the father of this literary movement which originated in Zurich. In 1916, he published the first Dada manifesto, The First Heavenly Adventure of Mr. Antipyrine which advocates "abolition of the memory, abolition of the future and abolition of logic" and "the absolute belief in spontaneity and living for the moment". Arriving in Paris in 1919, he becomes friends with André Breton and they both introduce the Dada movement in France. They stage a series of scandals and provocations and bring a number of literary innovations to the table. They dream up singular and disconcerting creations, like phonetic poetry or automatic writing, seeking to replace the meaning of words with the poetic act of creation itself.

In 1922, Tzara severs his ties with Breton and continues to preach the word of Dada. In 1931, he publishes Approximate Man, a great automatic portrait that is overflowing with lyricism. From 1935 on, he joins the association of revolutionary writers and artists and befriends Aragon. He participates in the Spanish writers' struggle during the Spanish war and goes underground. During the Occupation, he continues to militate for the Communist Party. He is buried in Paris's Montparnasse cemetery.

Aurélia Caton


Everything takes place then as if secret voices from the two revolutions resulting from the Great War were delivering a message to Montparnasse. The war of 1914-1918, the Bolshevik Revolution, but also the dada revolution which took place much earlier. An idea generator launched by Tristan Tzara while millions of men where confronting each other mortally in Verdun.
Tristan Tzara
Well, as you know, Dada was created in Switzerland in 1916, Picabia came at that time and was a part of it, Ribemont-Desaignes was also a part of it, and the literature group that Lebreton, Soupault and Aragon formed gave membership to this Dada movement. Which Eluard joined a bit later on.
What did they intend to do?
Tristan Tzara
The Dada programme was, despite what some think, collective destruction, it was the creation of new values, overthrowing existing values and of course, to overthrow them, we had to destroy the commonly accepted values, which were more or less academic. That's why the reputation of the Dada, a destructive movement, took off, and unfortunately, we think that it's just that, that's the only thing the Dada movement is. Of course, we can't destroy if, we can't create if we don't destroy what existed before. Of course, Dada didn't take place specifically, only in Montparnasse, since all of the events took place elsewhere.
I can imagine that people spoke about it there?
Tristan Tzara
We talked about it a lot and it was, like I said, a place to meet or oftentimes a place to stay for those who lived nearby. Because a bit later, with Man Ray, Crevel, and a few others, we lived in a hotel on Campagne Première Street where almost the entire hotel was occupied by friends. So obviously, at that time, life was good, friendship-wise, and it was like a huge apartment that belonged, where we all lived.
A phalanstery?
Tristan Tzara
I mean, if you could call it that...