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Old 02-24-2013, 03:20 PM   #1
Prestidigitweeze
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The Story of Robert and Youki Desnos

Many have said that Robert Desnos was the greatest French surrealist poet who ever lived. The love of his existence -- literally -- was Louci "Youki" Badoul.

Youki had been an artists' model when they first met and would become a gallery owner much later. Her nickname -- which literally means "rose snow" -- was given to her by her former husband, Tsuguharu Foujita. When he first met Youki, Tsuguharu was so overcome by her beauty that he stayed up for the entire night after they first met at a cafe in Montparnasse, making her a blue blouse from scratch, which he presented to her the next morning.

The story of Youki and Tsuguharu's first meeting is as famous as it is romantic.

In terms of lasting romance, however, the story of Youki and Robert Desnos is far more poignant.

Youki and Desnos married shortly after they met at La Coupole. We do not know of any grand gestures that might have occurred during courtship (though Desnos wrote books of poetry for her). We only know of the two sacrifices that followed long after.

On February 22, 1944, the Gestapo came to the couple's rooms looking for a list of the names of Resistance workers. They found only Robert Desnos, who was home by himself. When they demanded to see the list, he refused to give it to them, even though they found it eventually hidden in the back of the binding of a book. Even then, Desnos would not give up his friends, insisting that the list contained only the names of art critics.

Defiantly loyal, Desnos had received a call warning him to leave before the Gestapo arrived. He chose to stay because he feared Youki would be tortured in his place. Instead, he helped another man in the building, Alain Brieux, to make his way to safety.

Desnos himself was arrested instead.

"Robert had time to escape," Youki wrote later in her memoirs. "He stayed there just to protect me!"

One of Desnos's most famous poems, "Letter to Youki", was written after his arrest and deportation to Auschwitz. Later, he died in a Czech concentration camp. The cause was typhoid, sadly, weeks after the camp's liberation.

Here is his last poem, translated by me for the occasion of my girlfriend's birthday. It was written to the woman he loved, just as Keats's last letter expressed his dedication to Fanny Brawne.

LAST POEM
Terezina Concentration Camp, May 1945

I've dreamed of you so much,
walked, talked and lain with your phantom so much,
that there is nothing left for me now but to become a phantom
among phantoms, a shadow a hundred times
more shadowy than the one which moves,
and will go on moving,
devotedly
across the bright sundial of your life.

-- Robert Desnos

"J'ai tant rêvé de toi,
tant marché, parlé, couché avec ton fantôme
qu'il ne me reste plus peut-être,
et pourtant, qu'à être fantôme parmi les fantômes
et plus ombre cent fois que l'ombre
qui se promène et se promènera allégrement
sur le cadran solaire de ta vie."


Last edited by Prestidigitweeze; 02-24-2013 at 03:31 PM.
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