Benjamin Péret was born in Rezé, France on 4 July 1899.
He, as a child, acquired little education due to his dislike of school
and he instead attended the Local Art School from 1912. He too, however,
resigned soon after in 1913 due to his sheer lack of study and
willingness to do so. Afterwords he spent a short period of time in a
School of Industrial Design before enlisting in the French army's Cuirassiers during the First World War to avoid being jailed for defacing a local statue with paint. He saw action in the Balkans before being deployed to Salonica, Greece.
During a routine movement of his unit via train, he discovered a copy of the magazine Sic, sitting upon a bench on the station platform, which contained poetry by Apollinaire – sparking his love for the art. During his stay in Greece, towards the end of the war, he suffered from an attack of Dysentery which led to his repatriation and deployment in Lorraine for the remainder of the war.
After the end of the war he joined the Dada movement and soon after, in 1921, he published Le Passager du transtlantique – his first book of poetry before he abandoned the Dada movement to follow, instead, André Breton and the emerging Surrealist movement whereupon he worked alongside, and influencing, the Mexican writer Octavio Paz.
In the fall of 1924 he was the co-editor of the journal La Révolution surréaliste, becoming chief editor in 1925. And in 1928, before immigrating to Brazil in 1929 with his wife Elsie Houston, he published Le Grand Jeu. Two years later in 1931, a mere few months after the birth of his first son, Geyser, whilst living in Rio De Janeiro,
he was arrested and expelled from Brazil on grounds of being a
'Communist Agitator' – having formed, with his brother-in-law Mario
Pedrosa, the Brazilian Communist League which was based upon the ideas
Having returned to France and buffeted by the winds of politics, he fought for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War.
He was later imprisoned, in 1940, for his political activities and
later released whereupon he sailed for Mexico, with the aid of the
American-based Emergency Rescue Committee,
to study pre-Columbian myths and American Folklore. He had originally
wished to emigrate to the United States although he was unable to do so
due to his Communist affiliations. Peret went to Mexico with his lover,
the Spanish painter Remedios Varo. In Mexico City he became involved with the European intellectual community living there in exile. Whilst living in Mexico City Peret met Nathalia Sedova, Trotsky's widow.
He remained in Mexico until the end of 1947. He returned to Paris and died there on 18 September 1959.