René Daumal

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René Daumal
Born(1908-03-16)16 March 1908
Died21 May 1944(1944-05-21) (aged 36)
Paris, France
OccupationPara-surrealist writer, poet
Known forMount Analogue (1952)
Signature René Daumal.jpg

René Daumal (French: [domal]; 16 March 1908 – 21 May 1944) was a French spiritual para-surrealist writer, critic and poet, best known for his posthumously published novel Mount Analogue (1952) as well as for being an early, outspoken practitioner of pataphysics.


House in Boulzicourt, Ardennes, where Daumal was born
Close of the plaque, outside the house

Daumal was born in Boulzicourt, Ardennes, France. In his late teens his avant-garde poetry was published in France's leading journals, and in his early twenties, although courted by André Breton co-founded, as a counter to Surrealism and Dada, a literary journal, "Le Grand Jeu" with three friends, collectively known as the Simplists, including poet Roger Gilbert-Lecomte . He is best known in the English-speaking world for two novels: A Night of Serious Drinking, and the allegorical novel Mount Analogue: A Novel of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventures in Mountain Climbing, both based upon his friendship with Alexander de Salzmann, a pupil of G. I. Gurdjieff.

Daumal was self-taught in the Sanskrit language and translated some of the Tripitaka Buddhist canon into the French language, as well as translating the literature of the Japanese Zen scholar D.T. Suzuki into French.

He married Vera Milanova, the former wife of the poet Hendrik Kramer; after Daumal's death, she married the landscape architect Russell Page.


Daumal's sudden and premature death from tuberculosis on 21 May 1944 in Paris may have been hastened by youthful experiments with drugs and psychoactive chemicals, including carbon tetrachloride. He died leaving his novel Mount Analogue unfinished, having worked on it until the day of his death.

He is buried at Cimetière parisien de Pantin in Pantin, a municipality just outside Paris.


The motion picture The Holy Mountain by Alejandro Jodorowsky is based largely on Daumal's Mount Analogue.


Works by René Daumal in English translation[edit]

  • Le Contre-Ciel (Le contre-ciel), Woodstock, New York: Overlook Press, 2005.
  • A Fundamental Experiment, New York / Madras: Hanuman Books, 1987; first published: René Daumal, "A Fundamental Experiment", X magazine, Vol. I, No. I (November 1959).
  • The Lie of the Truth and Other Parables from the Way of Liberation, New York / Madras: Hanuman Books, 1989.
  • Mount Analogue (Le mont analogue), Woodstock, New York: Overlook Press, 2004.
  • Mugle and the Silk (Mugle; La soie), New York, Edwin Mellen Press, 1997.
  • A Night of Serious Drinking (La grande beuverie), Woodstock, New York: Overlook Press, 2003.
  • Pataphysical Essays, Cambridge: Wakefield Press, 2012.
  • The Powers of the Word (1927-1943) (Les pouvoirs de la parole), San Francisco: City Lights, 1991.
  • 'Rasa or Knowledge of the Self' Essays On Indian Aesthetics and Selected Sanskrit Studies. New York: New Directions, 1982.* ed. Claudio Rugafiori, transl. Louise Landes Levi, Repr. Kathamndu, Nepal, Shivastan, 2002 & 2006 (each edition 333 copies).
  • You've Always Been Wrong (Tu t'es toujours trompé), Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995.
  • René Daumal, Letters on the Search for Awakening, 1930 - 1944, Toronto: Dolmen Meadow Editions, 2010. transl. Gabriela Ansari and Roger Lipsey, with an introduction by Roger Lipsey.

Works in English on René Daumal[edit]

External links[edit]