The poet David Gascoyne (1916-2001) led a life as surreal as his early poems. At eighteen he drafted the manifesto of the English Surrealist Group and at nineteen he published what remains an authoritative account of the international movement. The 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London was largely his brainchild. During the war he toured as an actor, embraced religious existentialism and became, in the words of John Lehmann, 'the most important philosophic poet of our time'. After the war he wrote for radio, painted, cooked, and went mad. The journals he kept during his periods of mental instability are masterpieces of the bizarre. Gascoyne found unexpected happiness in late middle age, emerging as an elder statesman of British poetry. With equivalent candour this pioneering biography describes his creative work and multifarious translations, his inconvenient addictions, his tormented private life, and his many friendships in England and in France.