Born in Isle-sur-Sorgue in the Vaucluze, the only son of a manufacturer. Disturbed by the death of his father in 1918 and by a distant relationship with his mother. Educated locally and at Avignon from 1922 to 1925. Began to write poetry during this period, greatly influenced by the poetry of Reverdy. Briefly in North Africa in 1924; later attended the University of Aix-en-Provence. Military service as an artilleryman at Nîmes in 1927-8. Sent some poems to Paul Éluard in 1929 and joined the Surrealists in 1930, remaining a member of the group until 1934, though ever afterward a Surrealist in all but name. Seriously ill with septicaernia in 1936-7; a supporter of the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War. Fought heroically in the Resistance in Provence during the Second World War. A close friend of the novelist Albert Camus and the philosopher Martin Heidegger. Lives in the South of France, and has gradually emerged since the war as one of the more influential, original and respected of modern French poets.
The novelist Albert Camus and the philosopher Martin Heidegger, both of whom have been regarded as representative of fundamental strains within Existentialism, were each independently of the opinion that René Char was the greatest French poet of the century. But though he has been widely and discriminatingly admired in France Char has had almost no impact in England, and has only recently received the kind of attention in America which might lead to a more general acknowledgement of his importance. The neglect of Char is