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Roditi, Edouard (1910-1992)  
 
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Because of Roditi's growing reputation in avant-garde Paris, Sylvia Beach invited him to a reading by Edith Sitwell at her bookstore Shakespeare and Company in 1929. Quite by accident, Roditi was sitting near Gertrude Stein, and on that evening she was accompanied by Pavel Tchelitchew, the Russian painter. Tchelitchew and Roditi hit it off and Roditi found himself being introduced to Stein, Sitwell, and Beach in a single evening.

A few days later, Roditi ran into René Crevel at a café in Montparnasse. With Crevel was Tchelitchew, who already knew many of Roditi's friends. That circle included Maurice Sachs, grandson of Georges Bizet, now known primarily as one in the long line of Jean Cocteau's lovers and secondarily as an agent of the Gestapo in Hamburg during World War II; Christian "Bebe" Berard, who would rise to fame as a designer of fantastic sets and décor for theater and film; and Christian Dior, then a salesman in an art gallery, but destined to become the designer behind haute couture's post-World War II "New Look."

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Chance meetings had a way of turning into life-long friendships in the heady days of the late 1920s. Roditi and Tchelitchew remained close friends until the painter's death in 1956.

Also in the late 1920s, Paul Bowles, who would later become famous for his novels and short stories, including The Sheltering Sky (1949) and Let It Come Down (1952), wrote to Roditi to solicit contributions to the American literary journal The Messenger. Roditi sent poems and essays for consideration, and began a correspondence that went on for many years. Although the two young writers had never met at the time, their exchange was intimate, even flirtatious, and candid.

In May 1931, Bowles, then on a trip to Europe with his mentor and teacher Aaron Copland, wrote to Roditi, "Much as I should like to make love too much as you claim you do, I see no way even of beginning."

Always one to connect like-minded friends, Roditi wrote letters of introduction for Bowles to many of his circle, including Christopher Isherwood and Stephen Spender in Berlin. When he had lunch with the Englishmen, Bowles was not particularly impressed by Isherwood and Spender, who struck Bowles as indulging in English public school antics to put others in their place, but he found one of the other guests more agreeable: Jean Ross, the free-spirit who would inspire Isherwood's memorable portrait of Sally Bowles in the 1937 novella of the same name later incorporated into Goodbye to Berlin (1939). It may be that Isherwood chose Sally's last name as the result of the lunch with Bowles.

When Roditi and Bowles finally did meet face to face in 1932 in London, Bowles recalls him as "tall, suave and polyglot." The two of them visited Roditi's father's large export-import office in Golden Square, where Bowles noted not only that the firm was international, but also that Roditi had spent time working for his father in its Hamburg branch.

During Roditi's time in Germany during the rise of the Third Reich, he witnessed first hand the ugliness of German anti-Semitism, an experience that led him to the study of Hebrew and ancient Jewish texts as an act of cultural memory. He would later write poems inspired by his Jewish heritage.

Bowles's first impression of the young Roditi is consistent with the self-portrait Roditi provided interviewers years later. When asked if he had ever encountered Jean Cocteau and André Gide as a young man, Roditi replied that he had met them only in passing, but that they both had come on to him. Roditi reminded his perhaps-skeptical questioners that he was considered quite good-looking at the time.

Surrealism and a Closer Look at André Breton

The period 1929 to 1935 marked the height of the Surrealist movement. Through his editorial position at Editions du Sagittaire Roditi stayed close to the center of Surrealism even as he moved between London, Paris, and Berlin and continued to widen his circle of friends and acquaintances.

In 1929, he published "The New Reality" in The Oxford Outlook, the first article in English about the Surrealist Manifesto and the movement. In 1935 Editions du Sagittaire published Roditi's first collection of verse, entitled Poems for F, a series of meditations on the nature of love directed to Roditi's married (male) lover.

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