Samuel (Samy) Rosenstock
Tristan Tzara, pseudonym of Samuel or Samy Rosenstock (1896–1963), was a Romanian and French avant-garde poet, essayist and performance artist. He was also active as a journalist, playwright, literary and art critic, composer and film director, he is known best for being one of the founders and central figures of the Dada movement.
Tzara was involved in some major polemics which led to Dada's split, defending his principles against André Breton and Francis Picabia. Tensions between Breton and Tzara escalated and in 1922 when Tzara was openly attacked by Breton in an article for ‘Le Journal de Peuple’, where the Romanian writer was denounced as ‘an impostor avid for publicity’. The pro-Tzara faction included Erik Satie, Theo van Doesburg, Serge Charchoune, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Marcel Duchamp, Ossip Zadkine, Jean Metzinger, Ilia Zdanevich, and Man Ray.
S. Samyro, a partial anagram of Samy Rosenstock, was used by Tzara from his debut and throughout the early 1910s. A number of undated writings, which he probably authored as early as 1913, bear the signature Tristan Ruia, and, in summer of 1915, he was signing his pieces with the name Tristan.
In the 1960s, Rosenstock's collaborate and co-founder of the magazine Simbolul and later rival Ion Vinea claimed that he was responsible for coining the ‘Tzara’ part of his pseudonym in 1915. Vinea also stated that Tzara wanted to keep ‘Tristan’ as his adopted first name, and that this choice had later attracted him the ’infamous pun’ ‘Triste Âne Tzara’ [Sad Donkey Tzara]. This version of events is uncertain, as manuscripts show that the Tristan may have already been using the full name, as well as the variations Tristan Ţara and Tr. Tzara, in 1913–1914 (although there is a possibility that he was signing his texts long after committing them to paper).
In 1972, art historian Serge Fauchereau, recounted that Tzara himself had explained his chosen name was a pun in Romanian, ‘trist în ţară’ [sad in the country]; Colomba Voronca also dismissed rumours that Tzara had selected Tristan as a tribute to poet Tristan Corbière or to Richard Wagner's opera ‘Tristan und Isolde’. Samy Rosenstock legally adopted his new name in 1925, after filing a request with Romania's Ministry of Internal Affairs. The French pronunciation of his name has become commonplace in Romania, where it replaces its more natural reading as ‘ţara’ [the land].
Tzara rebelled against his birthplace and upbringing. His earliest poems depict provincial Moldavia as a desolate and unsettling place. This was a common image among Moldavian-born writers, belonging to the avant-garde. Like the cases of Eugène Ionesco and Fondane, Samyro sought self-exile to Western Europe as a ‘modern voluntarist’, breaking with ‘the peripheral condition’, which may also serve to explain the pun he selected for a pseudonym.
See also Theo van Doesburg, Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp.
‘Tristan Tzara’, Wikipedia, retrieved 11 October 2013
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