Elsa Triolet

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Elsa Triolet - 1925

Elsa Triolet , born Ella Yuryevna Kagan ( Russian Элла Юрьевна Каган , scientific transliteration Ella Jur'evna Kagan ; born September 12, jul. / 24. September  1896 greg. In Moscow ; † 16th June 1970 in Saint-Arnoult-en-Yvelines ) was a Russian- French writer and the wife of Louis Aragon and the sister of Lilja Brik .


Triolet grew up in a wealthy and educated Jewish family in Moscow. Her mother, Jelena Jurjewna, was an excellent pianist, her father Juri Alexandrowitsch Kagan was a renowned lawyer. She received a good education and spoke fluent German and French even as a child, also due to the family's numerous stays abroad.

After graduating from high school in Moscow, she studied at the Architecture Institute . She had contact with Mayakovsky and the formalists early on . She had a brief love affair and a lifelong friendship with Mayakovsky. In later years she translated his works into French and dedicated a biography to him. Ossip Brik , one of the leading members of the formalists, married her sister Lilja.

In 1917 she met the French cavalry officer André Triolet. She completed her architecture studies in 1918 and married him a year later in Paris. After his military service ended, they settled in Tahiti . Isolated from the family and their homeland, and dependent on a husband who did not meet their intellectual expectations, their stay there was very unhappy. She returned to Europe in 1921 and worked in a drawing office in London . In 1922/23 she spent several months in Berlin, where she met the writers Maxim Gorki and Wiktor Schklowski . Schklowski courted her unsuccessfully, he published his Berlin correspondence with her in the volume Zoo ili pisma ne o ljubwi (German zoo or letters not about love) , which was later translated into many languages.

From 1925 to 1928 she commuted between the Moscow intelligentsia and the Parisian bohemian .

Encouraged by Maxim Gorky , she began to rework her written notes from previous years into complete texts. In 1925 À Tahiti (Eng. In Tahiti) was published, a socially critical report on life on the island. The autobiographical novel Fraise-de-Bois followed three years later, followed by the second Camouflage in 1928 . All books were published in relatively high editions of 3,000 and 5,000 copies by Moscow publishers and enabled her to enjoy modest financial independence in the following years.

In 1927 she joined the French Communist Party and met the writer Louis Aragon in Paris in 1928 . At that time, Aragon was making a name for itself as an aspiring surrealist alongside André Breton and Philippe Soupault , with whom he was close friends. Both fell in love and immediately moved in together. Under their influence, Aragon became more involved in the French Communist Party . Elsa Triolet maintained close contacts with the Soviet secret police GPU . Her sister Lilja was even listed as a GPU informant, her husband Ossip Brik, who later became Aragon's brother-in-law, worked for the secret police on a regular basis.

In 1930 Triolet traveled with Aragon to Kharkov in the Soviet Union with artistic as well as political intentions . In 1934 Aragon dedicated his novel The Bells of Basel to her, while she put her writing work on hold and made a living with temporary work. It was not until 1938 that her novel Bonsoir Thérèse was published , which, like its predecessors, was also strongly biographically influenced by her experiences as a Russian in Paris. For all other similarities between Triolet and Aragon, their literary claims differed greatly. While the language artist was addressing the intellectual public, she endeavored to write for the masses, which Aragon disliked, fearing that it would make himself look ridiculous in the international artistic milieu.

With the outbreak of the Second World War , Aragon received his draft notice and the couple married in 1939. He was demobilized in June 1940 and together they fled to the still free zone in the south of France. They settled in Nice and worked for the Resistance . In the summer of 1942, the entire workforce of the Resistance organization Les Lettres Françaises , which Aragon co-founded, was arrested and shot. The couple hid underground and from then on lived with forged papers in Provence.

They returned there after the liberation of Paris in 1944, and in 1945 Triolet was the first woman to receive the Prix ​​Goncourt , the highest literary award in France, for Le Premier Accroc coûte 200 francs . In the same year she supported the plan of the Soviet leadership to bring prominent emigrants back to Russia. So she tried unsuccessfully to persuade Nobel laureate Iwan Bunin , who lived in poor conditions in Paris, to return.

Triolet died of a heart condition twelve years before her husband. Both are buried in the park of their house in Saint-Arnoult-en-Yvelines . The former mill is described in detail in Ralf Nestmeyer's French poets and their houses .


  • A Tahiti (1926) (Original: Russian)
  • Fraise des bois (1926) (Original: Russian)
  • Camouflage (1928) (Original: Russian)
  • Bonsoir Thérèse (1938)
  • Mille regrets (1942)
  • Le cheval blanc , 1943
  • Les Amants d'Avignon . Pseudonym: Laurent Daniel. Underground publication of the Editions de Minuit, 1943, German The lovers of Avignon. Aufbau-Verlag, Berlin 1958.
  • Qui est cet étranger qui n'est pas d'ici? ou le mythe de la Baronne Mélanie (1944)
  • Le Premier Accroc coûte 200 francs , 1945, German. The end has its price. 1983, ISBN 3-922087-06-X
  • Le Mythe de la Baronne Melanie, 1945 Ides et Calendes, Neuchatel et Paris
  • Personne ne m'aime , 1946
  • Les Fantômes armées , 1947
  • L'Inspecteur des ruines , 1948
  • Le Cheval roux ou les intentions humaines (1953), dt. The red horse or: Where is mankind heading? (Aufbau-Verlag, Berlin 1957)
  • L'Histoire d'Anton Tchekov (1954)
  • Le Rendez-vous des étrangers (1956)
  • Mayakovsky (1957)
  • Le Monument (1957)
  • Roses à crédit (1959), German roses on credit (1962)
  • Luna Park (1960)
  • Les Manigances (1961)
  • L'Âme (1962)
  • Le Grand jamais (1965), German The Great Nevermore , ISBN 3-548-30179-7
  • Écoutez-voir (1968)
  • La Mise en Mots (1969)
  • Le Rossignol se tait à l'aube (1970)



  • Unda Hörner : The novel by Elsa Triolet. In the field of tension between avant-garde and socialist realism. Verlag Die Blaue Eule, Essen 1993, ISBN 3-89206-569-1 .
  • Unda Hörner: The real women of the surrealists. Simone Breton, Gala Éluard, Elsa Triolet. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1998, ISBN 3-518-39316-2 .
  • Unda Hörner: Louis Aragon and Elsa Triolet. The lovers of the century. Rowohlt Berlin, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-87134-316-1 .
  • Ralf Nestmeyer : French poets and their homes. Insel Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 3-458-34793-3 .
  • Dominique Desanti , Karin Müller: Les Yeux d'Elsa au siècle d'Aragon. Editions Guéna, Paris 2010

Web links

Commons : Elsa Triolet  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. ^ Thomas Urban : Russian writers in Berlin in the twenties. Berlin 2003, pp. 100-106.
  2. Arkady Vaksberg : Požar serca. Kogo ljubila Lili Brik. Moscow 2010, pp. 103, 109, 169.
  3. Deutschlandradio Kultur: In Lange Nacht. on December 14, 2013
  4. Arkady Vaksberg / Rene Gerra : Sem 'dnej v marte. Besedy ob ėmigracii. St. Petersburg 2010, pp. 178, 292.