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Gérard de Nerval (1808-1855)

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Gérard de Nerval
(Félix Nadar, Public domain)

Gérard de Nerval (1808-1855)

Prematurely orphaned of his mother, the poet Gérard de Nerval (born Gérard Labrunie) suffered throughout his childhood from the absence of maternal affection, which was probably the cause of his deep-rooted psychological angst.

Attracted by German literature, Gérard de Nerval brilliantly translated Goethe’s "Faust". He frequented Théophile Gautier and the Cénacle, a circle of young romantic writers with Victor Hugo at their center. His unhappy love for actress Jenny Colon, whom he worshipped, greatly affected him, and it soon became apparent that he suffered from mental problems.

Esotericism and the quest for an elusive feminine ideal lie at the heart of Nerval's most striking works, including "Les Chimères" and the collection of short stories "Daughters of Fire". Nerval's poetry lies between reality and the surreal, where dreams hold an important place. His last works were moreover the forerunners of surrealism.

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