René Crevel (Primary Title)
With his cherubic looks and burgeoning talents as a novelist and poet, the French writer René Crevel (1900–1935) was the enfant terrible of the Surrealist movement. When he was fourteen years old, his father committed suicide by hanging, an event that naturally had a profound impact on his future life and work. The effects of this family tragedy were compounded by his struggles to reconcile his homosexuality with his strict religious upbringing. Man Ray made this portrait in 1933 to help publicize Crevel’s book Les pieds dans le plat (Putting My Foot in It), which was published later that year. A committed Communist, Crevel was one of the organizers of the 1935 International Congress of Writers for the Defense of Culture in Paris and was horrified when André Breton assaulted the Soviet writer Ilya Ehrenburg for insulting the Surrealists, leading the congress to expel the group. Exhausted, demoralized, and suffering from renal tuberculosis, Crevel killed himself on the night of June 18, 1935, shortly before his thirty-fifth birthday, by turning on the gas on his kitchen stove. He left behind a terse, yet poignant note that read: “Please cremate my body. Loathing.”
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