Rene Char (1907 - 88) is considered the most important French poet of his generation. A member of the surrealists in the early 1930s, he became increasingly preoccupied by the rise of Nazi Germany and later played a key role in the French Resistance. Hypnos is both a document of unique importance in the history of the French Resistance and a classic of modern European literature. Based on a journal Char kept during his time in the Maquis, it is composed of short prose fragments that range from abrupt and sometimes enigmatic meditations in which the poet seeks out his metaphysical and moral compass bearings in the darkness of occupied France to narrative descriptions that throw into stark relief the dramatic and often tragic nature of the decisions he had to confront as the head of his Resistance cell. A tribute to the individual men and women who fought at his side, the book is also a celebration of the power of art to combat terror and to transform our lives.
Char had significant influence on the generation of French poets who came of age after World War II and was an important figure for a host of distinguished contemporaries, including Albert Camus, Julien Gracq, Edmond Jabes, Octavio Paz, Nicolas de Stael, Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger, as well as for younger writers like Peter Handke and Hans-Magnus Enzenberger, and the composer Pierre Boulez, who has set several of his poems to music.