Robert Desnos with Youki (Lucie Badoud) who was his second great love.
Youki was married to Foujita when she first met Desnos in 1928. She did not at first  like his “childish antics” but soon they became friends and he became a regular visitor to her house.  As time progressed Desnos began to forget about Yvonne George and had transferred his affection  and symbolism (starfish, mermaid) to Youki.

Tsuguharu Foujita, Portrait of Youki 

By October of 1931, Foujita’s and Youki’s marriage had deteriorated.
On the 31st Foujita went out to buy cigarettes and instead booked passage on a ship and sailed to Brazil. In his farewell note he wrote “I do not have any more strength to fight in Paris … Let me have the simple life which I dream of…You now have a faithful friend, Robert … who has taken my place and for him you are the dearest person in the world.”

In early summer of 1944 Robert Desnos wrote this letter to Youki from Buchenwald where he was imprisoned. It is one of the very last things he wrote:

My love,

youkidesnos7Our suffering would be unbearable if I couldn’t regard it as a passing and sentimental illness. Our reunion will make our life beautiful for at least thirty years. For my part, I’m taking a deep swig of youth, and I will return filled with love and strength. During work a birthday, my birthday was the occasion for a long meditation on you. Will this letter reach you in time for your birthday? I would have liked to give you a hundred thousand American cigarettes, a dozen couture dresses, an apartment on the rue de Seine, an automobile, a little house in the Compiègne forest, the one on Belle Isle and a little four-penny bouquet. In my absence, you can go ahead and buy the flowers. I will repay you for them. The rest I promise you for later.

RobertDesnosLetterToYoukiBut before all else, drink a bottle of good wine and think of me. I hope our friends won’t leave you alone on this day. I thank them for their devotion and their courage. I received a package from Jean-Louis Barrault about a week ago. Kiss him on the cheek for me as well as Madeleine Renaud, as the package is a proof that my letter did arrive. I have not received a reply, but I’m waiting for one every day. Kiss the whole family for me, Lucienne, Tante Juliette, Georges. If you meet Passuer’s brother, give him my regards and ask him if he knows anyone who can come and help you. What’s new with my books at the press? I have many ideas for poems and novels. I’m sorry that I have neither the freedom nor the time to write them. You can, however, tell Gallimard that within three months of my return they will receive the manuscript for a love story in an entirely new genre. I am closing for today.

Today, the 15th of July, I receive four letters, from Barrault, Julia, Dr. Benet, and Daniel. Thank them and excuse me for not having replied. I have the right to only one letter a month. Still nothing from your hand, but they do give me news of you; this will be for next time. I hope that this letter is as our life to come. My love, I kiss you as tenderly as honorability permits in a letter which must be passed by the censor. A thousand kisses. And have you received the little hope chest that I sent to the hotel in Compiègne?


Desnos died February 22, 1944. Desnos was first deported to Auschwitz, then Buchenwald, and finally to Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia in 1945, where he died from typhoid, only weeks after the camp’s liberation. He is buried at the Montparnasse cemetery in Paris. Although most of his writings were lost, an earlier poem to his wife, in revised form, was found on his person:

I have dreamed so strongly of you
I have walked so much, talked so much
So much I have loved your shadow
That there now remains for me nothing more of you,
It remains with me to be a shadow among shadows
To be a hundred times darker than the darkness
To be the shadow that will come and come again into your sun blessed life.

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