René Daumal

René Daumal (1908–1944) was born on 15 16 March, 1908 in Boulzicourt, Ardennes, France.

He was a writer, philosopher and poet, one of the most gifted literary figures in early 20th century France. His poetry, written in an avant-garde vein, was published in the leading French journals, before he reached the age of twenty. In his twenties, following his acquaintance with Andre Breton, together with three friends, collectively calling themselves the Simplists, he co-founded a literary journal, “Le Grand Jeu,” which was an artistic reaction to the Surrealist movement.

Daumal was self-taught in the Sanskrit language and translated portions of the Tripitaka Buddhist canonic texts as well as the literature of Japanese Zen scholar D.T. Suzuki into French. He met and worked with Gurdjieff in the later part of his life. His most famous novels, A Night of Serious Drinking and his allegorical novel Mount Analogue: Novel of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventures in Mountain Climbing.  The latter novel, on which he worked until the day of his death, was left unfinished, and published posthumously; subsequently, a movie Holy Mountain by Alejandro Jodorowsky was released, based largely on Mount Analogue. Both of these novels are based on his friendship with Gurdjieff’s pupil, Alexander de Salzmann.

His other literary works include his prose-poem ‘The Holy War,’ which involves a fiery call to inner, spiritual warfare, novel, such as Le Contre-Ciel, A Fundamental Experiment, The Lie of the Truth and Other Parables from the Way of Liberation, Mugle and the Silk and The Powers of the Word (1927-1943) and a book of essays on Indian aesthetics and selected Sanskrit studies, ‘Rasa or Knowledge of the Self’. He died on 21 May, 1944 from tuberculosis in Paris. His premature death may have been caused by youthful experiments with drugs and psychoactive chemicals, including carbon tetrachloride.

Last Letter to his Wife

I am dead because I lack desire,

I lack desire because I think I possess.

I think I possess because I do not try to give.

In trying to give, you see that you have nothing;

Seeing that you have nothing, you try to give of yourself;

Trying to give of yourself, you see that you are nothing:

Seeing that you are nothing, you desire to become;

In desiring to become, you begin to live.

From the “Wholy War”

“For to be a philosopher, to love the truth more than oneself, one must have died to self-deception, one must have killed the treacherous smugness of dream and cozy fantasy”.


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