Happy Birthday, Gérard de Nerval!
Gérard de Nerval was born May 22, 1808. A perennial literary figure of the vernal and the surreal, the temporal and the infinite, the accessible and the gnostic, he has fascinated poets, writers and artists for generations.
Nerval’s real name was Gérard Labrunie. Famous for walking his pet lobster (named Thibault) about Paris, Nerval's eccentric reputation as a flaneur and a poet established him as one of the original bohemians.
Nerval gained noteriety with his translation of Goethe's Faust, and later he was responsible for introducing the Francophonic world to the poetry of Heinrich Heine. Nerval enjoyed the favorable company of Alexandre Dumas and his literary circle, but after years of nervous breakdowns and grinding poverty, he took his own life by hanging January 26, 1855. Addressed to his aunt, his suicide note only read, "Do not wait up for me this evening, for the night will be black and white".
Umberto Eco discusses his enchanting short story "Sylvie" at length in Six Walks in the Fictional Woods, and Nerval's influence on the Surrealists of the 20th century is undeniable: a line from his autobiography reads, "Le Rêve est une seconde vie"....Our dreams are a second life.
Nerval was fixated with ethereal beauty, transcendent emotions, and romantic tragedy. While the more extravagant Baudelaire, Rimbaud and Apollinaire exceed him in fame and esteem, Nerval's quiet, gentle soul retains a very deep, distinct appeal for posterity that cannot be understated.