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Born in Bucharest the son of a Jewish tailor, he spoke Yiddish, Romanian, German, and French. During 1938, he traveled frequently to Paris where he was introduced to the Surrealist circles. World War II and the official antisemitism in Romania forced him into local exile. During the short pre-Communist period of Romanian independence, he founded a Surrealist artists group, together with Gellu Naum, Paul Păun, Virgil Teodorescu and Dolfi Trost.
His first publications, including poems in French followed. He was the inventor of cubomania and, with Dolfi Trost, the author of the statement "Dialetic of Dialectic" in 1945. Harassed in Romania and caught while trying to flee the country, the self-called étran-juif ("StranJew") finally left Romania in 1952, and moved to Paris through Israel.
There he worked among others with Jean Arp, Paul Celan, François Di Dio and Max Ernst, producing numerous collages, drawings, objects, and text-installations. From 1967, his reading sessions took him to places like Stockholm, Oslo, Geneva, New York City, and San Francisco. The 1988 TV-portrait by Raoul Sanglas, Comment s'en sortir sans sortir, made him famous for a larger readership.
In 1994, he was expelled from his apartment officially for "hygiene reasons." Luca had spent forty years in France without papers and could not cope. On February 9, at the age of 80, he committed suicide by jumping into the Seine.
Luca initially wrote most of his poetic works in his native Romanian. Two collections of these, Inventatorul Iubirii and Un lup văzut printr-o lupă, published in Bucharest in 1945, were translated into English (The Inventor of Love and Other Works) by Julian and Laura Semilian and published by Black Widow Press in 2009.
With the authorisation of éditions Corti, a forthcoming chapbook of his poems translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain will be featured in "Poetry International", Issue no. 15, Spring 2010.
- Un loup à travers une loupe, Bucharest, 1942. Poems in prose, initially published in Romanian. Later translated into French by Gherasim Luca. Apart from Ce Château Pressenti, they remained unpublished in French until 1998, Éditions José Corti
- Quantitativement aimée, Éditions de l'Oubli, Bucharest, 1944
- Le Vampire passif, Éditions de l'Oubli, Bucharest 1945
- Dialectique de la dialectique, together with Dolfi Trost, Éditions surréalistes, Bucharest, 1945
- Les Orgies des Quanta, Éditions de l'Oubli, Bucharest 1946
- Amphitrite, Éditions de l’Infra-noir, Bucharest 1945
- Le Secret du vide et du plein, Éditions de l'Oubli, Bucharest 1947
- Héros-Limite, Le Soleil Noir, Paris 1953 with an engraving and three drawings
- Ce Château Pressenti, Méconnaissance, Paris 1958, with frontispiece and engraving by Victor Brauner. This poem is part of Un loup à travers une loupe
- La Clef, Poème-Tract, 1960, Paris
- L'Extrême-Occidentale, Éditions Mayer, Lausanne 1961 with 7 engravings by Jean Arp, Brauner, Max Ernst, Jacques Hérold, Wifredo Lam, Roberto Matta, Dorothea Tanning
- La Lettre, no editor mentioned, Paris, 1960
- Le Sorcier noir, with Jacques Hérold, Paris 1996
- Sept slogans ontophoniques, Brunidor, Paris 1963 with engravings by Augustin Fernandez, Enrique Zanartu, Gisèle Celan-Lestrange, Jacques Hérold.
- Poésie élémentaire, Éditions Brunidor, Vaduz, Liechtenstein, 1966
- Apostroph'Apocalypse, Éditions Upiglio, Milan 1967 with fourteen engravings by Wifredo Lam
- Sisyphe Géomètre, Éditions Givaudan, Paris, 1967 Book-sculpture designed by Piotr Kowalski
- Droit de regard sur les idées, Brunidor, Paris, 1967
- Déférés devant un tribunal d'exception, no editor mentioned, Paris, 1968.
- Dé-Monologue, Brunidor, Paris, 1969 with two engravings by Micheline Catty
- La Fin du monde, Éditions Petitthory, Paris 1969 with frontispiece by Micheline Catty and five drawings by Ghérasim Luca
- Le Tourbillon qui repose, Critique et Histoire, 1973
- Le Chant de la carpe, Le Soleil Noir, Paris, 1973 with sonogram and sculpture by Kowalski
- Présence de l'imperceptible, Franz Jacob, Châtelet; with no date of publication
- Paralipomènes, Le Soleil Noir, Paris 1976 with a cubomania by Luca
- Théâtre de Bouche, Criapl'e, Paris, 1984 with an engraving and nine drawings by Micheline Catty.
- Satyres et Satrape, Éditions de la Crem, Barlfeur, 1987
- Le Cri, Éditions Au fil de l'encre, Paris, 1995
- La proie s'ombre
- La voici la voie silanxieuse
- Levée d'écrou, Éditions José Corti, 2003
In English translation:
- The Passive Vampire, Twisted Spoon, 2009. Tr. by Krzysztof Fijalkowski.
- The Inventor of Love & Other Works, Black Widow Press, 2009. Tr. by Laura and Julian Semilian.
- Self-Shadowing Prey, New York: Contra Mundum Press, 2012. Translation and introduction by Mary Ann Caws.
- Comment s'en sortir sans sortir (1988), directed by Raoul Sangla, in which Gherasim Luca recites eight of his poems in a very sober setting.
- Gammel, Irene. "The Passive Vampire". Bookforum. Retrieved 13 June 2009.
- Hyperion: On the Future of Aesthetics, Vol. VII, No. 3 (October 2013). Special issue on Luca with articles in English & French and texts by Luca.
- Page about Gherasim Luca in French
- "Passionnément", poem and audio document of the poet's performance (in French, authorized by copyright holder)
- "Quart d'heure de culture métaphysique", poem and audio document of the poet's performance (in French, authorized by copyright holder)
- English translation of some of his poems:
- Dream in Action, from Héros-Limite at the Wayback Machine (archived February 22, 2007)
- Hermetically Open, from Héros-Limite at the Wayback Machine (archived March 1, 2006)
- 15 minute metaphysical, from Quart d'heure de culture métaphysique, Le Chant de la Carpe at the Wayback Machine (archived March 1, 2006)
- Embody, from Prendre Corps, Paralipomènes at the Wayback Machine (archived February 22, 2007)
- Madeleine, from La proie s'ombre at the Wayback Machine (archived March 1, 2006)
- Dominique Carlat: Ghérasim Luca l'intempestif