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The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  2,210 ratings  ·  137 reviews
This early autobiography, which takes Dalí through his late thirties, is as startling and unpredictable as his art. On its first publication, the reviewer of Books observed: "It is impossible not to admire this painter as writer ... (Dalí) succeeds in doing exactly what he sets out to do ... communicates the snobbishness, self-adoration, comedy, seriousness, fanaticism, in ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published March 3rd 1993 by Dover Publications (first published 1942)
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The most striking aspect of Dali is his essential conservatism. Beneath the exhibitionism, the surrealism, the extravagance is a 19th century, perhaps Spanish, clinging to rules, rigor, discipline, hierarchy, and finally religion. He found freedom within tradition, and criticized Picasso for struggling (reduced to slavery) endlessly in the complete freedom of revolution. Here is his frustration at the art school faculty:

I was already in full reaction against cubism. They, in order to reach
Aug 11, 2008 added it
Yet another Dali book I am unable to rate.
It took me almost a year to read this book off-and-on. It was damn near impossible. For two reasons I almost did the unthinkable and gave up:

1) It is written by a man with a tongue of genius. He has a way with words that throws you off from your pure amazement of their exquisiteness, and hell, all that genius makes for a complicated read. It's hard not to get tripped up. (Exquisiteness? Now that word is certainly not worthy of being called exquisite
M. Sarki
Jun 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Salvador Dalí was thirty-seven years old when he completed this autobiography, his book of secrets, he says. He had become at this more mature age a serious Christian, a Catholic to be exact, and his quest for heaven was really all that mattered to him by then besides the love of his life, Gala, his personal fame and glory, his home and possessions, and the faith in God that has eluded him all his life. The god part was all a surprise to me and I was not expecting to learn of these extraordinary ...more
Chloe Thurlow
Jan 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
When reading this book one must take into account that Dali was a genius. It is an accompaniment to his work and thus surreal not formulaic. He reveals all his passions, fetishes and obsessions - and he worked on them constantly throughout his life. In the summer every year while staying at his summer retreat in Cadaques, he sent Picasso a postcard with the same message: In July neither women nor snails. What does it mean? What does it matter. Read this book
Feb 28, 2009 rated it it was ok
This book is the polar opposite of a quick read... this book is a project that may take you months or years of on again, off again, reading. it is worth the struggle, but it should be read in small doses. Much like his art work, it is a bit overwhelming.
Jon Nakapalau
Nov 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Dalí on Dalí...and other topics...and "...Of shoes - and ships - and sealing-wax - Of cabbages - and kings -". Just the sort of book you would think he would write.

James Hartley
Mar 15, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a fascinating book with brilliant illustrations (as youd expect) but its not a great read. Its a one-off, like the man himself, and while it swirls and dances and leads you all over the place, it shines but also obstuficates at will, making sense and willingly not, giving you brilliant insights and throwing you miles off course.

Useful, now, as a historical artefact and interesting, illuminating companion to Dalis work, its also overlong, verbose and frequently boring.

My favourite
Sep 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This book changed my life and the way I used to perceive the inner lives of visual artists. It flows like a painting, it's packed with surreal images and symbols that only Dali could relate to. it's a real memoir, nothing fake, nothing hidden, just insane, strange and beautiful like Dali was.
It's number one on my list of favorite books.
However, I do understand why some people might not enjoy it so much, it's not for everyone.
one has to know a little about the artist and surrealism in order to
Vuk Samčević
Jan 21, 2019 rated it liked it
If you like Dalì it is a must read. The style is very interesting and I would really like to see how he managed to write hos novel, seeing that he knows how to write.
David Madden
Aug 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Like his painted images, Dali's style is bizarre in complex ways. His life is very like his paintings. In his book, he provides sketches that illustrate events and his perspectives on the episodes of his life, along with photographs. He has a brilliant analytical mind and a style to do it justice. He is truly myriad-minded. He was a friend of the avant garde director Bunuel and of the tragic poet Lorca. Page by page, he fills the reader's head full of images and ideas. His book makes the reader ...more
Martin Bueno
Jan 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Its what you want when you set out to read
about a human
its a self writ bio

I couldn't believe it when i was reading
he cuts himself on a small glass shot bottle he thinks that one of his hairs is at the bottom but it turns out to be a tiny crack
he breaks a another kids violin and runs away as fast as he can

anyway it was the best bio i've read ever

He taps into the greater


he finishes his project and sses his examination sb
Jan 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book was very unique, brilliant and beautiful as his paintings. Dali's bio leads to his childhood thru his age 37. This interesting and bizzare tale of how his captivated surrealism thru his art.

So I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in getting into the artistic minds of the masters. =)~
Kenya Wright
Jul 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I learned more than I wanted to know in some ways and was utterly fascinated in other ways!

Warning there are moments where there's def an argument for Dali being a rapist/molester/pedophile/incestuous instigator.

But. . .he spent his life being and living in odd, messing with people's minds, making watchers question what they were seeing.

It was good, but great for the odd. . .not a good recc for the normal.
Vladimir Rybalko
Jul 13, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
So, I even don't know what to say. I'm just unable to read it. This is true. Dali is either a genius or mad. The book can be a crazy diary or just a hard trolling. Nobody knows. But, definitely, it isn't for me.
Michael D.
Sep 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
At my second read, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book. (And yes, second read means I didn't quite make in through on the first go. Also, I believe the translator should be given his share of kudos in deciphering what many agree is pretty much a labryinth of words and phrases, but most importantly - fanciful albeit earnest embellishments. I agree that its probably not for some readers and even that truth itself varies depending on whether or not one likes somewhat boastful storytelling, the ...more
Oct 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: snarky people with great senses of humor and love of art (especially Dali's.)
This book is so pithy I just can't seem to get into it: I love it every time I pick it up, but don't want to disrespect it by not having ample time to absorb it. And the last year of grad school was certainly too sleep-deprived to lavish attention on it, and I'm still far from loyal book worship time. But maybe I'll put a dent in this Christmas vacation. That's how worth it the book is. He's hilarious. It also compliments my new surroundings: the shameless self-promotion is so L.A. Who knew?
Dec 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-again
One of the best books I've ever read, although I admit I read it believing it to be mostly real later to realize that it wasn't. But So entertaining.

Salvador Dali should have been a writer, his writing is so well written, even for a translation!

I gave this away awhile back to someone, and I angerly realize that they probably didn't READ IT!!!! Why do I keep doing this? I need to buy another copy.
May 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Dali's illustrations and some brilliant passages almost pushed my rating to five stars, but several verbose passages had me drowning in verbiage, and made me think Dali was nuts, or just filling pages to fulfill his contract with the publisher. Overall, a wonderful, worthwhile read. I especially enjoyed his perspective on Paris, New York, his beloved Leget and Cadaques, and his thoughts on Europe during and between the two world wars.
Oct 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book so much! Written from the surrealist himself, it provides us with an intimate look into his life, from childhood on, and we got to connect with some of his idiosyncrasies. I identified with him greatly, on most things, and it made me feel more special, less weird. This is definitely a book for the weirdos out there, and for anyone wanting a glimpse into the secret life of Salvador Dali!
Jun 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I wish every autobiography was this fascinating. You really feel as though you've entered the perversely complex insanity of Dali's subjectivity. This book is quite a brilliant anomaly of an autobiography; not to mention the delight of his lovely, fantastical prose. I am planning on reading this again.
Nov 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Salvador Dali build this monument for his own talent and despicable narcisizm. His talent is undeniable, the artworks are speaking for themselves and this book is also one of his best creations. The writing style is surprisingly good and the whole books is fascinating. It is full of rich language and interesting facts from Dali's life. Enjoyable read for memoir and art fans.
Feb 12, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
I learned from the first couple of chapters that the less I know about Dali, the better. I couldn't stomach the rampant narcissism and psychopathic behavior. I usually like learning more about an artist and contextualizing it with their work, but I'll pass on Dali, thanks.
Jennifer Gutowski
Dec 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
wtf? now i know why dali said, "...i am drugs."
Peter Landau
Jan 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Dalis memoir is like Dalis paintings - theres a lot of detail that doesnt make sense. Not that thats bad. Dali is a character and far more enjoyable with a page or canvas between you and the man, who is insufferably self-centered. At least he has a sense of humor or at least a sense of the absurd. Digging through this tome is like pulling corn from shit: a lot of it stinks, but those tasty nuggets are worth the effort. ...more
J. Daniel Stone
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If anyone claims they are a fan of Dali, this is a must read!
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm really glad to have found and read this autobiographical work of one of my favorite visual artists. He tells the story of his life (up until the age of 37 when he finished the book.) In addition to sharing actual events, he also shares fantastical hallucinations and what can only be deluded memories of his childhood and adolescence. It is nearly impossible to tell the difference between what might have actually happened in Dali's life and what memories are imaginary. It's a fascinating and ...more
Jun 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: surrealist
Dali was a fantastic writer. Here is his autobiography from youth to the age of 30, tracing his ascent to fame. He includes anecdotes that would be interesting to anyone familiar with his work: his formative years in art school, the Surrealist Exhibition at the World's Fair, his inspiration for the melting watches... but those facts pale in comparison to his writing style, which is compelling in its own right. His intricately nested metaphors, extravagant vocabulary and vainglorious attitude ...more
Sep 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great and unique book, by and about a great and unique man (to say the least). I recommend this book to anyone who want's to get a true feel for who Dali was, how his genius worked; his totally unique perspective on life. This book is not an effortless read, but it is certainly worth the effort, both for the value of its contents and because you will come out with improved reading skills, an enlarged vocabulary, and insight into a one of a kind perspective, that will definitely surprise you.
Kevin McAllister
Oct 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
One look at Dalai's paintings and you can see that he sees things in a different way. It also becomes clear in his auto biography that he sees things in a different way. But while at times I admired his absolute genius, in writing, his absolute sense of being a genius at times became a bit tiresome.Despite being an amazing man and an artistic genius, in his autobiography, he comes off as being a little bit too full of himself. But overall, a fascinating read.Dali was and still is amazing !
Sep 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This book reads like a Dali painting. Dali talks about the early parts of his life including intra-uterine memories and false childhood memories. A must read written in Dali's unique style for all fans of surrealism.
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Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, 1st Marquis of Púbol, was a Spanish surrealist painter born in Figueres, Catalonia.

Dalí was a skilled draftsman, best known for the striking and bizarre images in his surrealist work. His painterly skills are often attributed to the influence of Renaissance masters. His best known work, The Persistence of Memory, was completed in 1931.


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