Guillaume Apollinaire

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Apollinaire, Guillaume

Apollinaire, Guillaume (gēyōmˈ äpōlēnârˈ), 1880–1918, French poet. He was christened Wilhelm Apollinaris de Kostrowitzky. Apollinaire was a leader in the restless period of technical innovation and experimentation in the arts during the early 20th cent. Influenced by the symbolist poets of the previous generation, he developed a casual, lyrical poetic style characterized by a blend of modern and traditional images and verse techniques. His best-known lyrical poems are collected in Alcools (1913) and Calligrammes (1918). A friend of many avant-garde artists, including Picasso and Braque, Apollinaire is credited with introducing cubism with his book Les Peintres cubistes (1913, tr. The Cubist Painters, 1949). Les Mamelles de Tirésias (1918), his only play, was one of the earliest examples of surrealism.


See biographies by F. Steegmuller (1963, repr. 1971) and M. Davies (1964); studies by L. C. Breunig (1969), K. Samaltanos (1984), T. Mathews (1988), and S. Bates (1967, rev. ed. 1989).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Apollinaire, Guillaume


(pseudonym of Wilhelm Apollinaris de Kostrowitzky). Born Aug. 26, 1880, in Rome; died Nov. 9, 1918, in Paris. French poet. Son of an impoverished aristocratic Polish woman.

From 1899, Apollinaire lived in Paris. His lyric poetry is characterized by courage, sincerity, and a tragic sense of life’s cruelty (the cycle Bestiary, or Orpheus’ Cortege, 1911), fused with a joyful acceptance of life and resistance to loss and the passage of time (the poem, “Mirabeau Bridge,” 1912). The book ofverse Alcohol: 1898–1913 (1913) contains the intonations of popular songs, the epic voice of a great city, a call to fill the huge “gullet of Paris” with the universe (“Vendémiaire”), and the poet’s meditations on prison life (the cycle In Santé Prison; Apollinaire had been thrown into jail because of a false accusation in 1911).

In Apollinaire’s work there is a clash between formalistic experimentation and an innovative development of the classical tradition. And if Apollinaire is now considered to be one of the most refined lyricists of the 20th century (the cycle Vitam impendere amori; Russian translation, Devote Life to Love, 1917), then it is primarily because the influence of the modernist schools—whether it be symbolism (Apollinaire’s novella The Rotting Enchanter, 1908), cubism (Aesthetic Meditations and Cubist Painters, 1913), futurism (Futurist Antitradition, A Manifesto Synthesis, 1913), or surrealism (the play The Teats of Tiresiasstaged in 1917; published in 1918)—could not enchain Apollinaire’s creative art. He emerged from a series of dead ends and found his own path—a faith in the future and a taste for life (the cycle of novellas Hérésiarque and Co., 1910), a grotesque ridicule of bourgeois isolation (the book of ironic prose Poet Assassinated, 1916)—toward a “new” realism (“New Sense and the Poets,” a lecture given by Apollinaire on Nov. 26, 1917).

On the eve of World War I, Apollinaire foresaw that a “time of revolutions” was coming. He saw in war a senseless annihilation of man by man, but in 1914 he enlisted in the French Army as a volunteer; a desire to liberate Poland was one of the reasons for this decision. He was seriously wounded. Apollinaire’s first war poems, addressed to the “beautiful lady” in the traditions of the courtly lyric, were colored with martial scorn for the enemy (the collection Letters to Lou, 1915; published in 1955). But Apollinaire also created a lyrical chronicle which expressed a tragic conception of war (Calligrams, Poems of Peace and War, 1918). The concluding thought of Apollinaire’s comic mystery Color of Time (1918; published in 1920) on the proprietary world rings out as a terrible indictment of the epoch of suicidal individualism. Apollinaire’s formalistic experiments were canonized by the dadaists and the surrealists; his tragic lyricism and optimistic faith in the triumph of “dawn over darkness” has been adopted by P. Éluard, V. Nezval, and L. Aragon.


Oeuvres complètes, vols. 1–4. Paris, 1965–66.
Oeuvres poétiques. Paris, 1956. (Bibliography.)
In Russian translation:
Stikhi. Translated by M. P. Kudinov. Article and notes by N. I. Balashov. Moscow, 1967.
“Stikhi.” (Introduction by P. Antokol’skii.) Inostrannaia literatura,1969, no. 1.


Durry, M. J. G. Apollinaire. Alcools, vols. 1–3. Paris, 1956–64.
“G. Apollinaire,” [series 1–6], La revue des lettres modernes, 1962, nos. 69–70; 1963, nos. 85–89; 1964, nos. 104–07; 1965, nos. 123–26; 1966, nos. 146–49; 1967, nos. 166–69.
“Guillaume Apollinaire: Etudes et informations.” Compiled by M. Décaudin. La revue des lettres modernes, 1966, no. 5.
Europe, Nov .-Dec. 1966, nos. 451–52. (The entire issue is devoted to Apollinaire.)
Adema, M. Bibliographie générale de l’oeuvre de G. Apollinaire. Paris, 1949.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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