Benjamin Péret was born in Rezé (Loire-Atlantique) on 4 July 1899, and enlisted in the army to avoid being jailed. He saw action in the Balkans, and served through the war. Afterwards, he joined the Dada movement, and in 1921 published Le Passager du transtlantique his first book of poetry. He left the Dada movement following André Breton and joined Surrealism.
He worked with and influenced other poets such as Octavio Paz. In the fall of 1924 he was the co-editor of the journal La Révolution surréaliste, becoming chief editor in 1925. In 1928, before living in Brazil (1929-1932), with his wife Elsie Houston, he published Le Grand Jeu. Buffetted by the winds of politics, he fought in the Spanish Civil War, met Nathalia Sedova, Trotsky's widow in Mexico City (1942-1948), and returned to France and then spent the remainder of his life in Paris. He was married to the Spanish artist Remedios Varo and they escaped Europe together with the help of the American based Emergency Rescue Committee. Barred from immigration to the United States because of Péret's political history they instead immigrated to Mexico where they lived together in Mexico City until their divorce in 1947.