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TaTa Dada


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Tristan Tzara, the daddy of Dada, the French communist, and the involuntary Kabbalist, emerge reconciled in this well-researched and engaging biography. An adult scholar has written with sympathetic integrity about the enfant terrible of the 20th century, and has revealed the golden thread linking the many faces of Tzara: poetry. Marius Hentea's attention to poetry compellingly places Tzara in the company of the greatest French poets. -- Andrei Codrescu, author of The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara and Lenin Play Chess In the past decades, there have been dozens of books on Dada, but its founder, Tristan Tzara (born Samueli Rosenstock in the Romanian town of Moinesti) remains elusive. In this, the first Tzara biography in English, Hentea brilliantly recaptures Tzara's various incarnations -- from Jewish shtetl boy to sophisticated Gymnasium student, to Dada provocateur and nihilist, to reluctant Surrealist, Stalinist, and finally, in the post-World War II years, to ardent student of medieval poetry. The picture of virulent anti-Semitism in turn-of-the-century Romania is especially striking and provides a new perspective on the deeper motives that brought Dada into being. Anyone interested in the avant-garde will want to read this superb book! -- Marjorie Perloff, Professor Emerita of Humanities, Stanford University; author of The Futurist Moment and Unoriginal Genius Marius Hentea has provided us with a richly researched and fluently written biography of Tristan Tzara, which closely follows this complex poet and avant-garde activist through a myriad of displacements and changes of direction. With an impressive command of published and archival sources in both French and Romanian, Hentea not only enriches our knowledge of the most familiar period of Tzara's career, the years of Zurich and Paris Dada, he also motivates new interest in several less-known episodes of his life: Samuel Rosenstock-Tristan Tzara's origins in pre-World War I Romania, his engagements during the Spanish Civil War, his activity in hiding as a foreign-born Jew in France during World War II, his fraught relations with the Communist Party over the 1956 Hungarian uprising, his role in the scholarly canonization of Dadaism, his obsessive research into poetic anagrams late in his life, and much more. TaTa Dada marks a major achievement in modernist and avant-garde studies. -- Tyrus Miller, Professor of Literature, University of California, Santa Cruz

About the Author

Marius Hentea, a Romanian-born literary scholar, teaches in the Department of Literary Studies at Ghent University. He is the author of Henry Green at the Limits of Modernism.


Hentea's biography succeeds in capturing the effervescence of its subject, without being willing to take Tzara invariably at his own word; rarely succeeding, thankfully, in pinning him down, it does catch, in flashes, his essence like lightning in a bottle as he speeds by on his celestial adventures.


It is rather shocking that it took almost a 100 years after the 'official' 1916 start of Dada in Zurich for a first comprehensive biography to be published in English on its main instigator Tristan Tzara. Beautifully designed and with a title worthy of this poet that points to his first ever published book La Premiere Aventure celeste de Monsieur Antipyrine, it makes for a truly enticing read.

-Edith Doove, Leonardo Reviews

The antics of the Dadaists, at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich in 1916 and after the war in various European cities, are notorious. What they actually signified is more problematic, and there is much to be learnt from this carefully documented and extensively illustrated biography of the Rumanian-born Tristan Tzara, who played a key role in the movement.

-Ian Birchall, Review 31

Marius Hentea has gone into a great deal of detail to tell Tzara's story and his book is well-researched (there are fifty pages of notes) and is a mine of information about Dada and surrealist events, little magazines, small-presses, and a variety of ephemeral publications.

-Jim Burns, The Northern Review of Books
TaTa Dada offers a treasure trove of local insights (including the old riddle of the origins of the 'Tristan Tzara' moniker), but the book comes into its own as a reassessment of the history of Dada itself-of the movement's origins, as well as of its often contradictory artistic aims. Besides its considerable merits as a biography and an astute historical account of Dadaism, Hentea's book offers a much-needed re-evaluation of the place of the Central European avant-gardes in the development of what we have come to call, in reductive shorthand, 'modernism.'-Modernism/Modernity

Marius Hentea has given us what will probably be the book in English on Tristan Tzara for some time: splendidly written, thoroughly researched, balanced and sophisticated, and infected by his subject's creative energy. With its eye-catching design and generous illustrations, there is also something distinctly Dada about TaTa Dada, for which the publishers deserve their fair share of praise.

-Times Literary Supplement

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