Miranda France

A Perfectly Normal Chap Who Forgot He Was Gay

The Shameful Life of Salvador Dalí


Faber & Faber 912pp £30 order from our bookshop

If one goal of modern biography is to lay bare secrets and perversions, then Salvador Dalí must necessarily make a disappointing subject, for he spent a lucrative lifetime laying them all bare himself. Few are the Dalí paintings that make no reference to masturbation, castration or father-hatred. As for vanity, which biographers usually pounce on, one of Dalí’s earliest diary entries reads: ‘I am madly in love with myself.’ That love affair continued throughout his life, which may have brought the artist solace, as he successively alienated friends and family.

Dalí claimed not to have ‘the slightest problem in making public my most shameful desires’. He talked freely of his difficulty in achieving an erection and his horror of female genitalia. Yet, one of the aims of Ian Gibson’s thorough and beautifully written book is to show that the artist was also motivated by fears he chose not to express. There is some evidence to support this. Dalí never confessed to the homosexual instincts which seem powerfully expressed in some of his paintings. In later life he is known to have resorted to anti-depressants.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'I was dumbfounded by the view of the Berlin Wall from the eastern side. It seemed inconceivable that in under thre… ,
    • RT : Danger for ‘local’ staff, access in exchange for silence (and logos) - all sounds familiar in this fascinating look… ,
    • 'He has long been eclipsed by Vermeer, though his interiors are arguably more ambitious.' David Gelber on the Dutc… ,
    • 'The wicked are truly revolting and the rage is wholly understandable' on new thrillers by John Le… ,
    • In @aaciman's sequel to 'Call Me By Your Name', 'Erotic urgency has merged with middle age’s frugality of heart', s… ,
    • 'The repression of free speech in Uganda is common. Reporters Without Borders’ 2019 Press Freedom Index ranks Ugand… ,
    • RT : The Topeka School is out today! I reviewed it for and I'm psyched to see him talking at the Tate tonigh… ,