Rene Daumal

(1908 - 1944 / France)

Rene Daumal
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Born March 16, 1908, in Boulzicourt, Ardennes, France; died of tuberculosis, May 21, 1944, in Paris, France. French novelist, essayist, poet, short story writer, translator, and playwright. Daumal is known for his writings on spirituality and perception. He spent his youth in the company of several artists called simplists, who delved into psychological exploration and used drugs. Daumal's own use of carbon tetrachloride, though nearly fatal, later inspired him to write "Une Experience fondamentale" (title means "A Fundamental Experience"), an essay in which he traces the expansion of his consciousness from simple awareness to drug-induced intuition to a renewed ... more »

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  • ''Words are made for a certain exactness of thought, as tears are for a certain degree of pain. What is least distinct cannot be named; what is clearest is unutterable.''
    René Daumal (1908-1944), French poet, critic. A Night of Serious Drinking, foreword (1938).
  • It is still not enough for language to have clarity and content ... it must also have a goal and an imperative. Otherwise from language we descend to chatter, from chatter to babble and from babble to...
    René Daumal (1908-1944), French poet, critic. A Night of Serious Drinking, foreword (1938).
  • Common experience is the gold reserve which confers an exchange value on the currency which words are; without this reserve of shared experiences, all our pronouncements are cheques drawn on insuffici...
    René Daumal (1908-1944), French poet, critic. A Night of Serious Drinking, foreword (1938).
  • ''Each time dawn appears, the mystery is there in its entirety.''
    René Daumal (1908-1944), French poet, critic. repr. In The Powers of the Word, ed. and trans. by Mark Polizzotti (1991). "Poetry Black, Poetry White,"...
  • ''Art has a double face, of expression and illusion, just like science has a double face: the reality of error and the phantom of truth.''
    René Daumal (1908-1944), French poet, critic. repr. In The Lie of the Truth, trans. by Phil Powrie (1989). "The Lie of the Truth," (written 1938), pub...
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Best Poem of Rene Daumal


One cannot stay on the summit forever -
One has to come down again.
So why bother in the first place? Just this.
What is above knows what is below -
But what is below does not know what is above

One climb, one sees-
One descends and sees no longer
But one has seen!

There is an art of conducting one's self in
The lower regions by the memory of
What one saw higher up.

When one can no longer see,
One does at least still know.

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