Maurice Nadeau  

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Maurice Nadeau (21 May 1911 – 16 June 2013) was a French writer and publisher. He was born in Paris. One of his well-known works, translated into several languages, is the Histoire du surréalisme (The History of Surrealism), published in French in 1944 and in English 21 years later, translated by Richard Howard.


Orphaned during the First World War, Nadeau attended the à l'École normale supérieure de Saint-Cloud, where he discovered politics. In 1930 he joined the French Communist Party, where he worked in Georges Cogniot. He was expelled from the party in 1932. He then read Lenin and Leon Trotsky, which inspired him to join the Ligue Communiste, a Trotskyist party created by Pierre Naville. In this period, he frequently encountered Louis Aragon, André Gide, André Breton, Jacques Prévert, and Benjamin Péret.

Named professor of literature in 1936, he taught until 1945, briefly as a professor of literature in Prades, but he shortly preferred to become a schoolteacher in Thiais in order to move closer to Paris. He then collaborated with André Breton on the review Clé, which protested against the internment in France of Spanish republicans in the early phases of the Spanish Civil War.

After the brief period of his mobilization, he once again took up teaching under the Nazi occupation and engaged in clandestine political activities. His resistance network (which included a German soldier who would be executed) was dismantled in the course of a raid. David Rousset and several of his other members were deported. Rousset's wife then helped Nadeau escape deportation.

This first part of his life led to the publication in 1945 of his Histoire du surréalisme (History of Surrealism, published in the United States in 1965 and the United Kingdom in 1968). The book was long the major reference work on surrealism despite the fact that André Breton disliked it.

At the Liberation, Nadeau became a critic for the resistance newspaper Combat, directed by Albert Camus, with the help of its editor in chief Pascal Pia. He ran the literary page for seven years and brought to prominence authors such as Georges Bataille, Jean Genet, René Char, Henri Michaux, Claude Simon, and Henry Miller. He also got underway the editing of the works of the Marquis de Sade. He stunned his contemporaries by coming to the defense of Louis-Ferdinand Céline. In 1982 he wrote a fine introduction (replacing that of John Fowles) to the French edition of The Book of Ebenezer Le Page (published by Maurice Nadeau/Papyrus under the title Sarnia, the Latin name for Guernsey, the setting of the novel.


  • Histoire du surréalisme, Le Seuil, 1945
  • Michel Leiris et la quadrature du cercle, 1963
  • Gustave Flaubert, écrivain, éd. Maurice Nadeau, 1980
  • Un coupable idéal, Roger Knobelspiess, co-auteur avec Serge Quadruppani, éd. Maurice Nadeau, 1985
  • Une vie en littérature. Conversations avec Jacques Sojcher, Editions complexes, 2002
  • Sade, l'insurrection permanente, éd. Maurice Nadeau, 2002
  • Journal en public, éd. Maurice Nadeau, 2006

Les Lettres nouvelles est une revue littéraire française, fondée en 1953 par Maurice Nadeau et Maurice Saillet.

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