Birthplace: Montevideo, Uruguay
Location of death: Paris, France
Cause of death: Tuberculosis
Remains: Buried, Cimetière de Bagneux, Paris, France
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Executive summary: Pessimistic poet who inspired T. S. Eliot
Lyrical and scathingly pessimistic Uruguay-born French poet Jules Laforgue offered an urgent tone of despair and fatalism, often rendered with playfully provocative and cynical humor. His first published work, "The Song of the Dead", features skeletons lifted from their graves, and was written while he was still in high school. He later wrote a collection of verses satirizing popular French songs by recasting the lyrics with persistent irony, and authored a volume of poetry — dedicated to Buddha — wherein the recurring melancholy is symbolized by a clown, always sad behind his happy painted face.
Laforgue failed his university entrance exams, and never attended college. He briefly worked as a secretary at the literary magazine Gazettedes Beaux-Arts, before being hired as a tutor and reader in the imperial court of Germany. This well-paid position allowed him ample time to write poetry, but took him far from his home and left him lonely and depressed. He quit the court and married an Englishwoman in 1886, and they settled in Paris, where he was soon stricken ill and died of tuberculosis just days after his 27th birthday. His bride contracted the same disease, and died the following summer.
His poetry is remembered for its symbolist style and his pioneering use of free verse in the French language, and it retains its bite even in translation. Decades after his death, Laforgue's sardonic wordworks became an early inspiration for American-English poet T. S. Eliot.
"I will have spent my life in the train station, almost setting off on deplorable adventures. All that for the love of my heart crazy for the glory of love. How picturesque the trains we miss! How 'good-bye for now' the boats at the end of the pier! The well-built pier protecting me from the sea, from my flesh, from love."
Father: Charles Benoit Tarbes Laforgue (bank clerk, d. 1881)
Mother: Pauline Le Havre Lacollay (d. 1877)
Wife: Leah Lee (m. 31-Dec-1886, d. 6-Jun-1888 tuberculosis, no children)
High School: Lycée Condorcet, Paris, France
Risk Factors: Depression, Tuberculosis
Author of books:
Complaintes de la vie (The Laments) (1885, poetry)
L'lmitation de Notre-Dame la Lune (The Imitation of Our Lady the Moon) (1886, poetry)
Derniers vers (Towards the Last) (1890, poetry)
Le Sanglot de la terre (Sobs of the Earth, a/k/a Legendary Moralities) (1897, poetry)
Complete Works of Laforgue (1901-03, three volumes)
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