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TaTa Dada: The Real Life and Celestial Adventures of Tristan Tzara

TaTa Dada: The Real Life and Celestial Adventures of Tristan Tzara

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Publication Date: September 12th, 2014
The MIT Press
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The first biography in English of Tristan Tzara, a founder of Dada and one of the most important figures in the European avant-garde.

Tristan Tzara, one of the most important figures in the twentieth century's most famous avant-garde movements, was born Samuel Rosenstock (or Samueli Rosenștok) in a provincial Romanian town, on April 16 (or 17, or 14, or 28) in 1896. Tzara became Tzara twenty years later at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, when he and others (including Marcel Janco, Hugo Ball, Richard Huelsenbeck, and Hans Arp) invented Dada with a series of chaotic performances including multilingual (and nonlingual) shouting, music, drumming, and calisthenics. Within a few years, Dada (largely driven by Tzara) became an international artistic movement, a rallying point for young artists in Paris, New York, Barcelona, Berlin, and Buenos Aires. With TaTa Dada, Marius Hentea offers the first English-language biography of this influential artist.

As the leader of Dada, Tzara created “the moment art changed forever.” But, Hentea shows, Tzara and Dada were not coterminous. Tzara went on to publish more than fifty books; he wrote one of the great poems of surrealism; he became a recognized expert on primitive art; he was an active antifascist, a communist, and (after the Soviet repression of the Hungarian Revolution) a former communist. Hentea offers a detailed exploration of Tzara's early life in Romania, neglected by other scholars; a scrupulous assessment of the Dada years; and an original examination of Tzara's life and works after Dada. The one thing that remained constant through all of Tzara's artistic and political metamorphoses, Hentea tells us, was a desire to unlock the secrets and mysteries of language.

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.

Praise for TaTa Dada: The Real Life and Celestial Adventures of Tristan Tzara

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.—Bookslut

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 Première Aventure céleste 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.'


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