. . a miscellany of first encounters and initial impressions.
Tzara came to the house, I imagine Picabia brought him but I am not quite
certain. I have always found it very difficult to understand the stories of
his violence and his wickedness, at least I found it difficult then because
Tzara when he came to the house sat beside me at the tea table and talked
to me like a pleasant and not very exciting cousin.
Stein, Paris, 1919)
...The Dadaists were rampant and virulent in those postwar years. Dada's leader
was a Roumanian Jew Tristan Tzara, long a resident of Paris. Tzara was a
very good poet, whose forte was to be suave in destruction, urbane in outrage.
Short, slender, dark, with great intelligent eyes, and a mouth forever flickering
into paradox, Tzara made one think of a well-bred Jewish bourgeois boy nursing
some bleeding trauma, some shattering psychosis...some one of the family of
Leopold and Loeb, the boy murderers of Chicago. Tzara, of course, was in
touch with Marinetti, the Italian Futurist. Less sensitive, less pure, Marinetti
worshipped the secondary traits of the machine: clatter, speed, and force.
Tzara, more the poet, accepted the machine's laceration of human flesh and
nerve but voiced the human anguish.
Frank, Paris, early 1920s)
...Tzara was a pale, dark-eyed, grey-haired little man, who wore a monocle;
his very intelligent and animated face might have resembled that of Leon Trotsky
or James Joyce, if each had shaved off his beard.
I had read how Tzara and Dadism, first appearing in combination in Zürich
in 1916, had come and conquered Paris four years later, and since then had
carried on a scandalous sort of propaganda aimed at overthrowing all our conventional
notions of things....
The little monocled Tzara was quite a wag, and often equal to some outrageous
boutade, either improvised or carefully rehearsed, as is often the
case with men of wit....
Josephson, Paris, early 1920s)
...We joined Tristan Tzara in a glary café somewhere near the Tour
St. Jacques. He was surrounded by some mighty odd fish. I've forgotten their
names but it was a prime collection of zanies. Everybody was racking his brains
to think up something abracadabrating to do. Suddenly Tzara, a sallow Rumanian
who looked like a chartered accountant, rose and cried "Follow me." The Dadas
jumped to their feet leaving half their saucers unpaid for. Don [a friend]
and I, as so often happens to trusting Americans in the hands of the European
literati, found ourselves settling their score with the waiters.
It turned into a game of follow the leader. Tzara, trailed by the rest in
a solemnfaced cue, marched about the streets executing a number of
idiotic maneuvers. They had a little chant: Dada, Dada. Any other place we
would have been arrested but the French in those days were tolerant of anything
which would pass as a manifestation artistique....
Dos Passos, Paris, 1925)
...she [Kay Cowan] took me to see Tristan Tzara and his wife. Except for
his monocle he looked more like a doctor than a Surrealist poet. He had a
great collection of African masks and artifacts, the like of which I had never
seen even in a museum.
Bowles, Paris, 1929)
Yesterday I had been to tea at Tristan Tzara's, who is charming; his young
wife even more charming.
Gide, Corsica, 1930)
Tzara still wandered around the Café de Flore and Deux Magots--a small
white-haired ghost searching for someone he never seemed to find. We were
introduced on three occasions, but he pretended not to know me. [Allen] Ginsberg
fared no better. As we sat together at a terrace table Allen called,
"Tzara! Yoo hoo, Tzara! Hello! It's Ginsberg!" We were rudely ignored.
Norse, Paris, 1959)
The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, by Gertrude Stein (Vintage, 1933).
Memoirs, by Waldo Frank (University of Massachusetts Press, 1973).
Life Among the Surrealists, by Matthew Josephson (Holt, Rinehart and Winston,
The Best Times: An Informal Memoir, by John Dos Passos (New American Library,
Without Stopping, by Paul Bowles (Hamish Hamilton, 1972).
The Journals of André Gide: Volume III, 1928-1939 (Knopf, 1949).
Memoirs of a Bastard Angel: A Fifty-Year Literary and Erotic Odyssey,
by Harold Norse (Morrow, 1989).