Synopses & Reviews
Since the publication of his first book in 1953, Yves Bonnefoy has become one of the most important French poets of the postwar years. At last, we have the long-awaited English translation of Yves Bonnefoyandrsquo;s celebrated work, Landrsquo;Arriandegrave;re-pays, which takes us to the heart of his creative process and to the very core of his poetic spirit.and#160;In his poem, andldquo;The Convex Mirror,andrdquo; Bonnefoy writes: andldquo;Look at them down there, at that crossroads, / They seem to hesitate, then go on.andrdquo; The idea of the crossroads haunts Bonnefoyandrsquo;s work, as he is troubled by the idea that the path not taken may lead to the arriandegrave;re-pays, a place of greater plenitude, and of more authentic beingandmdash;an andldquo;elsewhere in the absolute.andrdquo; Seized by this fear that what he terms andldquo;presenceandrdquo; exists always somewhere else, a little further on, Bonnefoy here sets out on a labyrinthine quest to find traces of this andldquo;original place,andrdquo; which he locates not only in objects of knowledge and experience as diverse as the deserts of Asia, a hill fort in India, a church in Armenia, the painting of Piero della Francesca but also, crucially, in the undivided intensity of his experiences as a child. Written with a visionary grace, The Arriandegrave;re-pays is a spiritual testament to art, philosophy, and poetry.and#160;Enriched by a new preface by the poet, this volume also includes three recent essays in which he returns to his original account of an ethical and aesthetic haunting, one that recounts the struggle between our instinct to idealizeandmdash;what he deems our eternal Platonismandmdash;and the equally strong need to combat this and to be reconciled with our nature as finite beings, made of flesh and blood, in the world of the here and now.
and#160;andquot;Yves Bonnefoy's The Arriandegrave;re-paysand#160;is an exemplary translation by Stephen Romer. This is its first appearance in English and Seagull Books has produced a handsome book, interspersed with images of the paintings and places the text visits in its quest for what lies 'over there,' out of sight. It is a gift to literature.andquot;and#160;A andquot;Books of the Yearandquot; Selection
andldquo;The Arriandegrave;re-pays, published in 1972, appears now in English for the first time. Stephen Romerandrsquo;s translation manages to capture both Bonnefoyandrsquo;s precision of statement and perception and his discomfiture and restlessness. The narrative tracks a traveler who in turn is hunting for the presence of le arriandegrave;re-pays while planning a text called An Unknown Feeling. Bounding between exaltation and constraint, he ultimately seems to settle for a recognition of presence in the world itself, not in the dream.andrdquo;
andldquo;Forty years ago, Bonnefoy published a somewhat unclassifiable book entitled Landrsquo;Arriandegrave;re-pays. . . . Now at last it has been fluently, indeed brilliantly, translated into English by Stephen Romer. . . . Bonnefoyandrsquo;s beautiful prose, lovingly rendered for the most part by Romer, eschews technical language and is shot through with the kind of reverie and music that belong to the province of poetry and not philosophy. . . . The Arriandegrave;re-pays is a poetandrsquo;s book above all.andrdquo;
andquot;The Arriandegrave;re-pays is an immersion in the heady waters of a profound aesthetic consciousness. . . . Yves Bonnefoy has modeled how to conduct enquiry into an aspect of the mind, a purely subjective and intimate endeavor, bringing in the signs, symbols, and imagery that this aspect has used as vehicle. The result is an extraordinary contribution to art criticism, fresh evidence that Bonnefoy has earned his lionized reputation. The Arriandegrave;re-pays is a visible manifestation of intellectual and spiritual engagement. It is a thing of surpassing beauty.andquot;
andquot;[Translator] Stephen Romer has respected Bonnefoy's sentences with their hesitations and additions, phrase appended to clause as the author attempts to refine his thought; the text is subtle, lyric, analytically clear and, most important, pleasurable. Like a Piero painting, it is a layering of transparencies, with thoughts and perceptions as primary as those that concern a poet's childhood, and as poignant as the enigmas of great art.andquot;
“Yves Bonnefoys poems, prose, texts, and penetrating essays have never ceased to stimulate both the writing of French poetry and the discussion of what its deepest purpose should be. . . . [He] is one of the rare contemporary authors for whom writing does not—or should not—conclude in utter despair, but rather in the tendering of hope.”
From the publication of his first book in 1953, Yves Bonnefoy has been considered the most important and influential French poet since World War II. A prolific writer, critic, and translator, Bonnefoy continues to compose groundbreaking new work sixty years later, constantly offering his readers what Paul Auster has called “the highest level of artistic excellence.”
In The Present Hour, Bonnefoy’s latest collection, a personal narrative surfaces in splinters and shards. Every word from Bonnefoy is multifaceted, like the fragmented figures seen from different angles in cubist painting—as befits a poet who has written extensively about artists such as Goya, Picasso, Braque, and Gris. Throughout this moving collection, Bonnefoy’s poems echo each other, returning to and elaborating upon key images, thoughts, feelings, and people. Intriguing and enigmatic, this mixture of sonnet sequences and prose poems—or, as Bonnefoy sees them, “dream texts”—move from his meditations on friendship and friends like Jorge Luis Borges to a long, discursive work in free verse that is a self-reflection on his thought and process. These poems are the ultimate condensation of Bonnefoy’s ninety years of life and writing and they will be a valuable addition to the canon of his writings available in English.
“Beverley Bie Brahic does a splendid job of translating the latest work of Yves Bonnefoy. She catches his unique combination of human detail and a groping for the beyond. . . . Brahic does full justice to the profoundly moving text—with its frequent shifts between the personal and the searchingly philosophical.”—Joseph Frank, author of Responses to Modernity: Essays in the Politics of Culture
About the Author
is a poet, critic, and professor emeritus of comparative poetics at the Collège de France. In addition to poetry and literary criticism, he has published numerous works of art history and translated into French several of Shakespeare's plays.
Stephen Romer is maandicirc;tre de confandeacute;rences at the University of Tours. A poet and critic, he has published four original collections and two anthologies of modern French poetry in translation.
Table of Contents
Introduction by Stephen Romer
Returns to the Arriandegrave;re-pays: Three Recent Texts
and#160;and#160;and#160; Afterword: September 2004
and#160;and#160;and#160; The Place of Grasses
and#160;and#160;and#160; My Memories of Armenia
List of Illustrations