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Roditi, Edouard (1910-1992)  
 
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Roditi was friends with René Crevel, the only homosexual member of the inner circle of the Surrealist movement, and was present when Crevel publicly broke with Breton and other Surrealists. As he worked more closely with Breton on editing an anthology, Roditi too would lose faith in the movement.

Despite admiring the poetry of Robert Desnos, Breton's novel Nadja (1928), and other genuinely innovative works, Roditi began to regard much of the later Surrealist work as bogus. Moreover, when Roditi was developing the outline of The Anthology of Black Humor (1940) with Breton, he realized that Breton's grasp of the concept of black humor was rudimentary at best and that the original list of writers that Breton proposed including in the anthology revealed huge gaps in his reading. Breton's biographer Mark Polizzotti has argued that Roditi "failed to see that Breton's 'erudition' was poetic intuition," but in any event the collaboration contributed to the younger man's disillusionment with the elder man and with Surrealism itself.

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Despite Surrealism's alleged freedom from the shackles of bourgeois constraints, its founder Breton was fiercely anti-homosexual. This attitude was a key factor in Crevel's break with Breton, and it no doubt played a role in Roditi's souring on Breton as well.

Roditi, ever the wry observer, remained a source of delicious anecdotes about Breton, especially after his death. He observed to Polizzotti that Breton's wives were so feminine as to be reminiscent of female impersonators. He also noted Breton's own ambiguous affect; though large and stolid, he had an effeminate air about him. Roditi reported that when he and a companion ran into Breton on a New York City street in the 1940s, the companion asked, "Who was that drag queen?"

Residence in the United States

Although Roditi had first visited the United States in 1929 for a few months and returned for a few more weeks in 1933, it was not until 1937 that he finally set up residence in the country where he held citizenship.

He enrolled at the University of Chicago to further his study of Romance languages. He received an undergraduate degree from Chicago in 1939, and then continued graduate studies at the University of California at Berkeley. At the University of Chicago he met his great friend Paul Goodman, later known as a fierce and articulate social critic and writer of stories and novels.

When the United States entered World War II, Roditi became one of the first recruits of the Voice of America, the propaganda arm of the Office of Wartime Information that produced radio programs to be broadcast to Nazi-occupied Europe. By March 1942, the New York office of the Voice of America French language group included not only Roditi, but also Claude Levi-Strauss, Klaus Mann, Yul Brynner, Julien Green, André Maurois, and even André Breton.

Despite Breton's ongoing and notoriously disparaging attitude toward homosexuals, Roditi was chosen to translate a collection of Breton's poetry into English and Charles Henri Ford of View Press was granted the honor of publishing Young Cherry Trees Secured against Hares (1946), the first appearance of Breton's work in English.

Post-War Transitions

After the end of World War II, Roditi's civil service career as a translator and interpreter continued. In 1945, he worked at the United Nations Charter Conference in San Francisco; in 1946, he returned to Europe with the Department of the Army to serve as an interpreter at the Nuremberg war crimes trials. He was moved to Berlin after that assignment for more interpreting work with the Department of the Army.

In 1950, however, Roditi became the object of harassment and persecution during the witch hunts inspired by Senator Joseph McCarthy and was fired as "a security risk." At first, the authorities tried to label him a Communist; when that charge would not stick, they fired him on the grounds of homosexuality.

Roditi returned to the United States briefly in 1950, but was unable to find a job. Returning to France, he worked for international agencies. The U.S. government, however, continued to demand updates on Roditi from the French government.

In 1958 the French became so annoyed with the U.S. demands and the cost of responding to them that they decided to expel Roditi; luckily, that plan collapsed due to bureaucratic technicalities. Settled in Paris, with occasional sojourns to other places, the poet, despite being blacklisted by the U.S. government, saw his career as an interpreter and translator flourish with assignments from UNESCO and the European Common Market.

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