Archive for the ‘French poetry’ Category

Jean Genet (1910-1986)

August 10, 2016

Jean Genet (19 December, 1910-15 April, 1986) was a French novelist, playwright, poet, essayist, and political activist.


Early in his life he was a vagabond and petty criminal, but he later took to writing.

Throughout his five early novels, Genet works to subvert the traditional set of moral values of his assumed readership. He celebrates a beauty in evil, emphasizes his singularity, raises violent criminals to icons, and enjoys the specificity of gay gesture and coding and the depiction of scenes of brutality and betrayal.


By 1949, Genet had completed five novels, three plays, and numerous poems, many of them considered controversial for their explicit and often deliberately provocative portrayal of homosexuality and criminality.

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Our Lady of the Flowers (Notre Dame des Fleurs, 1943) is a journey through the prison underworld, featuring a fictionalized alter-ego by the name of Divine, usually referred to in the feminine, at the center of a circle of queens with colourful sobriquets such as Mimosa I, Mimosa II, First Communion and the Queen of Rumania.

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The Miracle of the Rose (Miracle de la rose, 1946) is a fictionalized autobiography which describes Genet’s time in Mettray Penal Colony.

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The Thief’s Journal (Journal du voleur, 1949) is also a fictionalized autobiography and it describes Genet’s experiences as a vagabond and prostitute, as he wanders across Europe.

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Querelle of Brest (Querelle de Brest, 1947) is the story of a murder set in the midst of the port town of Brest, where sailors treat life with brutal carelessness.

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Funeral Rites (Pompes funèbres, 1949) is a story of love and betrayal across political divides, inspired by the death of the narrator’s lover, Jean Decarnin, who was killed by the Germans during the Second World War.


Jean Genet’s plays present highly stylized depictions of ritualistic struggles between outcasts of various kinds and their oppressors. Social identities are parodied and shown to involve complex layering through manipulation of the dramatic fiction and its inherent potential for theatricality and role-play.

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In The Maids (1947), the eponymous maids imitate one another and their mistress.

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In Deathwatch (Haute Surveillance, 1947), three prisoners are locked up in the same cell. One is to be guillotined. Confinement traps each of them in solitude and immense unhappiness, which lends them a certain dignity.

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Splendid’s (1948) is a full-length drama, and

Her (Elle, 1955) is a one-act play.

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In The Balcony (1957), the clients of a brothel simulate roles of political power before, in a dramatic reversal, actually becoming those figures, all surrounded by mirrors that both reflect and conceal.

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In The Blacks (1959), Genet offers a critical dramatization of what Aimé Césaire called negritude, presenting a violent assertion of Black identity and anti-white virulence framed in terms of mask-wearing and roles adopted and discarded.

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The Screens (1961), Genet’s most overtly political play, is an epic account of the Algerian War of Independence.


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Genet wrote an essay on the work of the Swiss sculptor and artist Alberto Giacometti entitled The Studio of Alberto Giacometti (L’Atelier d’Alberto Giacometti, 1957).


It was highly praised by Giacometti himself and by Pablo Picasso. Genet wrote in an informal style, incorporating excerpts of conversations between himself and Giacometti.

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Prisoner of Love (Un Captif Amoureux, 1986) is a memoir of Genet’s encounters with Palestinian fighters and Black Panthers. In 1970, he had spent two years in the Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan. Visiting Beirut in September 1982, Genet found himself in the midst of the Israeli invasion of the city. He was one of the first foreigners to enter Shatila refugee camp after the massacre of hundreds of its inhabitants.


Genet also wrote several poems.

  • “The Man Condemned to Death” (“Le Condamné à Mort”) (written in 1942, first published in 1945)
  • “Funeral March” (“Marche Funebre”) (1945)
  • “The Galley” (“La Galere”) (1945)
  • “A Song of Love” (“Un Chant d’Amour”) (1946)
  • “The Fisherman of the Suquet” (“Le Pecheur du Suquet”) (1948)
  • “The Parade” (“La Parade”) (1948)

These poems have been translated into English by Jeremy Reed and George Messo and published as Jean Genet: The Complete Poems.


Jean Genet developed throat cancer and was found dead on 15 April 1986, in a hotel room in Paris. He is buried in the Spanish Cemetery in Larache, Morocco.


ca. 1980-1997, Larache, Morocco --- Jean Genet's Grave on the Coast --- Image by © K.M. Westermann/CORBIS

Jean Genet’s books are available at:

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On Translating Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal into English – by R J Dent

January 10, 2015

flowers of evil - r j dent - baudelaire

One of the frustrations, the challenges, the problems – and probably the joys – of translating Baudelaire’s poetry is choosing the correct idiom to translate into.

Taking the words, sentences, phrases, lines, from the language of one country and translating them into the corresponding or equivalent language of another country is the type of work that can be done by almost anyone.

However, choosing the absolutely perfect cultural, social, geographical, spatial, historical, temporal and linguistic framework to put the translated words onto is another matter entirely, and will very much depend on the translator’s intentions and the receptive vocabulary of the proposed readership.

And when it’s poetry that is being translated, the task becomes even more complicated; the problems suddenly multiply. Read more…


R J Dent says: ‘I found translating Charles Baudelaire’s influential poetry collection Les Fleurs du Mal from French into modern English to be a rewarding, but challenging experience. This essay outlines some of the challenges and joys of the translation process.’

 R J Dent’s English translation of The Flowers of Evil is available at:

flowers of evil - r j dent - baudelaire


On Translating Baudelaire

Copyright © R J Dent (2007 & 2016)


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The Blood Delirium: The Vampire in 19th Century European Literature

November 29, 2014



‘R J Dent’s translations are fresh with an exciting raw sexual edge…’ (Candice Black)


The Blood Delirium is a definitive collection of 19th century European literature in which the vampire or vampirism – both embodied and atmospheric – is featured or evoked. Twenty-three seminal works by classic European authors, covering the whole of that delirious period from Gothic and Romantic, through Symbolism and Decadence to proto-Surrealism and beyond, in a single volume charged with sex, blood and horror.


The Blood Delirium contains a detailed introduction (by editor Candice Black) which not only examines these texts and their meaning, but which also charts the literary and cultural climate in which the new cult of the vampire was allowed to flourish.


The Blood Delirium includes texts by Bram Stoker, J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Oscar Wilde, J.M. Rymer, Charles Baudelaire, Le Comte de Lautréamont, Paul Féval, Maurice Rollinat, Guy de Maupassant, Count Stenbock, Jean Lorrain, Théophile Gautier, Charles Nodier, John Polidori, J.K. Huysmans, Charlotte Brontë, Ivan Turgenev, Jan Neruda, Augustus Hare, Cyprien Berard and Léon Bloy.


Several of the texts in The Blood Delirium are translated by R J Dent into English for the very first time, including those by Cyprien Bérard, Paul Féval, and Maurice Rollinat.



The Blood Delirium is the definitive collection for literate vampire-lovers.


The Blood Delirium is available from:


or from:


Bookbuster – a great bookshop in Hastings

November 5, 2013

Bookbuster is a wonderful book shop in Hastings that is open 7 days a week.



The proprietor of Bookbuster is Tim Barton, a St. Leonards-based cultural entrepreneur with many years experience in the book trade.


Tim has opened his cheekily-named bookshop, Bookbuster, in premises formerly occupied by a gone-bust Blockbuster DVD rental store.


Tim believes in bookshops and what bookshops offer customers: “I don’t think you can beat a physical bookstore, where you are free to browse,” he says.


Bookbuster is generating a lot of interest among book-lovers. Tim says: “The fact that there has been so much interest so far is fantastic.”


Although the shelves offer many new titles, the shop has an extensive and eclectic range of books that seem to appeal to all ages and interests.


With new stock arriving daily, a calendar full of author signings, readings, poetry slams and other literary events, and an ambient soundtrack playing to ensure customers linger longer, Bookbuster is proving to be a valuable business that gives a great deal to the Hastings reading community.


There is also a significant second-hand book section that – along with a selection with some well-chosen perennial titles – offers collectors the chance to obtain copies of rare editions and signed delights from Iain Sinclair, the late Iain Banks and Tom Sharpe, amongst others.


BookBuster is an independent bookshop in Queen’s Road, Hastings. There is a huge range of stock. Bookbuster is full of literary treasures and, because of Tim Barton’s depth of knowledge regarding authors and books of every type and genre, the shop is something of a cultural oasis. It is very good news for Hastings and for book-lovers and bibliophiles.


BookBuster is at 39 Queen’s Road, Hastings. Opening hours: 9.30am-5.30pm Monday to Saturday; 11-5 Sundays.


There are author readings, author signings, lectures, poetry readings and live music at BookBuster throughout the year.




39 Queen’s Road


TN34 1RL



BookBuster facebook page:



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Le Comte de Lautréamont’s The Songs of Maldoror translated by R J Dent

October 10, 2013
Le Comte de Lautréamont'

Le Comte de Lautréamont’














Le Comte de Lautréamont’s seminal classic, The Songs of Maldoror (Les Chants de Maldoror) is now available in R J Dent’s modern English translation:















Here is the Independent’s review of The Songs of Maldoror:



R J Dent discusses his translation of Le Comte de Lautréamont’s The Songs of Maldoror:





‘Lautréamont’s Songs of Maldoror [is] the black bible… almost the basic dream text of surrealism.’ J G Ballard 



R J Dent reads an extract from his translation of Le Comte de Lautréamont’s The Songs of Maldoror:





The Songs of Maldoror is an enigma of redoubtable power.’ Jacques Derrida



A promotional book trailer for R J Dent’s modern English translation of Le Comte de Lautréamont’s The Songs of Maldoror:





The Songs of Maldoror is ‘the expression of a revelation so complete it seems to exceed human potential.’ André Breton



R J Dent’s translation of The Songs of Maldoror is available from Amazon:


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Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil translated by R J Dent

October 7, 2013


Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire














Charles Baudelaire’s seminal classic, The Flowers of Evil (Les Fleurs du Mal) is now available in R J Dent’s modern English translation:














R J Dent discusses his translation of Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil:



R J Dent reads ‘I give you these verses…’ from his translation of Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil:



A promotional book trailer for R J Dent’s modern English translation of Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil:




R J Dent’s translation of The Flowers of Evil is available from the University of Chicago Press:

and from Amazon:


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The Songs of Maldoror

November 9, 2010

The Songs of Maldoror

by Le Comte de Lautréamont

Translated by R J Dent

Illustrated by Salvador Dalí

Foreword by Paul Éluard

Lautréamont’s Biography by Jeremy Reed

Introduction by Candice Black

264 pages, 22 half-tones, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Series: Solar Books – Solar Nocturnal

Paper $16.95

ISBN: 9780982046487

‘A new, definitive edition of Lautréamont’s influential masterpiece. Vividly translated by R J Dent.’


‘Lautréamont’s Songs of Maldoror [is] the black bible… almost the basic dream text of surrealism.’ J G Ballard


The Songs of Maldoror is an enigma of redoubtable power.’ Jacques Derrida


The Songs of Maldoror is ‘the expression of a revelation so complete it seems to exceed human potential.’ André Breton


Le Comte de Lautréamont was the nom de plume of Isidore Ducasse (1846–70), a Uruguayan-born French writer and poet whose only surviving major work of fiction, The Songs of Maldoror (Les Chants de Maldoror), was discovered by the Surrealists, who hailed the work as a dark progenitor of their movement. It was in The Songs of Maldoror that André Breton discovered the phrase that would come to represent the Surrealist doctrine of objective chance: “as beautiful as the random encounter between an umbrella and a sewing-machine upon a dissecting-table.”

Artists inspired by Lautréamont include Man Ray, René Magritte, Max Ernst, André Masson, Joan Miró, Yves Tanguy and, in particular, Salvador Dalí, who in 1933 produced an entire series of illustrations for The Songs of Maldoror. Twenty of those illustrations are included, for the first time, in this new, definitive edition of Lautréamont’s influential masterpiece. Vividly translated by R J Dent – the first new translation for over thirty years – this edition also includes a foreword by French Surrealist poet Paul Éluard and a concise biography of the author by poet Jeremy Reed. In addition, an introduction by series editor Candice Black details the links between Maldoror and the Surrealist movement.

The Songs of Maldoror is a poetic novel (or a long prose poem) consisting of six cantos. It was written between 1868 and 1869 by Le Comte de Lautréamont, the pseudonym of Isidore Ducasse. During the early 1900s, many of the surrealists (Salvador Dalí, André Breton, Antonin Artaud, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray and Max Ernst) cited the novel as a major inspiration to their own works. The Songs of Maldoror – and the book’s protagonist Maldoror – have continued to fascinate readers since its publication.

Here’s The Independent‘s review of The Songs of Maldoror:


The Songs of Maldoror can be ordered from at:

or from at:



Details of The Songs of Maldoror and R J Dent’s other books can be found at:

Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil

November 7, 2010

The Flowers of Evil & Artificial Paradise

by Charles Baudelaire

Translated by R J Dent

Here’s R J Dent’s translation of Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil. It was published by Solar Books on January 9th 2009. According to the blurb it’s ‘a brand new translation that vividly brings Baudelaire’s masterpiece to life for the new millennium’.

R J Dent says: ‘This particular translation was a labour of love; it started years ago, when I studied Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal as an undergraduate and realised how inaccurate the available translations were. I promptly set about translating twenty or so of the best poems, particularly the banned ones. In the process, I very quickly came to admire Charles Baudelaire’s poetic voice. It was refined and dignified, and yet very daring. I now understand these contradictions, if that’s what they are.’

‘I found the translation process itself very interesting. Because Baudelaire’s writing is very visual, it was almost like time-travel; I wandered around 19th century Paris, absorbing the sights, sounds, scents; was taken into the bedrooms of many dusky women, all of them sprawled across their beds, dressed only in jewels and perfume.’

‘When I had finished the translation, I was back in the 21st century. I couldn’t wait to get back to Baudelaire’s Paris. The translation process itself was very much like archaeology. I had the French text and I would work at it steadily, uncovering its buried English meaning, word by word, line by line, until finally, the whole poem would stand naked before me in all its pristine glory. That’s Baudelaire’s poetry for you. If only all translation work was like that.’

‘Incidentally, I very much enjoyed translating the introductory essay by Guillaume Apollinaire, which is now available in English for the first time.’

‘Solar Books has done a great job with The Flowers of Evil. With it they’ve included a new version of Artificial Paradise, which is a series of Baudelaire’s reflections on wine, hashish and opium.’

Odilon Redon’s cover picture, which he painted specifically for The Flowers of Evil, perfectly captures the zeitgeist of Baudelaire’s 19th century Paris.

The Flowers of Evil & Artificial Paradise

Charles Baudelaire

Translated by R J Dent


ISBN-10: 0-9799847-7-7

ISBN-13: 978-0-9799847-7-8

Publication date: January 2009

The Flowers of Evil can be ordered from Solar Books at:

or from The University of Chicago Press at:

or from at:

or from at:

Details of this book and R J Dent’s other works can be found at:

Ezra Pound

August 31, 2010

Ezra Pound (1885-1972) is generally considered the poet most responsible for defining and promoting a modernist aesthetic in poetry. In the early years of the twentieth century, he opened a seminal exchange of work and ideas between British and American writers, and was famous for the generosity with which he promoted the work of such major contemporary modernist writers as WB Yeats, Ernest Hemingway, DH Lawrence, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Yvor Winters, Marianne Moore, H. D., James Joyce, and especially T. S. Eliot, as well as visual artists including Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and musicians such as George Antheil.


Ezra Pound’s own significant contributions to poetry begin with his promulgation of Imagism, a movement in poetry which derived its technique from classical Chinese and Japanese poetry – stressing clarity, precision, and economy of language and foregoing traditional rhyme and meter in order to, in Pound’s words, “compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in the sequence of the metronome.”


A prolific author, he won the Bollingen prize for The Pisan Cantos in 1948. His later work, for nearly fifty years, focused on the encyclopaedic epic poem he entitled The Cantos, finally published in its entirety in 1975.


In 1959 Pound settled in Venice, Italy, where he lived in semi-reclusion until he died in 1972.


Selected works of Ezra Pound by year published


1908 A Lume Spento (poems)

1908 A Quinzaine for This Yule (poems)

1909 Personae (poems)

1909 Exultations (poems)

1910 Provenca (poems)

1910 The Spirit of Romance (essays)

1911 Canzoni (poems)

1912 Ripostes (poems)

1912 The Sonnets and Ballate of Guido Cavalcant (translations)

1915 Cathay (poems/translations)

1916 Gaudier-Brzeska (Memoir)

1916 Certain Noble Plays of Japan: from the MS of Ernest Fenollosa, chosen & finished by Ezra Pound, with an introduction by William Butler Yeats

1916 ‘Noh’, or, Accomplishment: a study of the classical stage of Japan, by Ernest Fenollosa and Ezra Pound

1916 ‘The Lake Isle (poem)

1916 Lustra (poems)

1917 Twelve Dialogues of Fontenelle (translations)

1918 Pavannes and Divisions (prose)

1919 Quia Pauper Amavi (poems)

1919 The Fourth Canto (poems)

1920 Umbra (poems/translations)

1920 Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (poems)

1921 Poems, 1918–1921 (poems)

1922 The Natural Philosophy of Love, by Rémy de Gourmont (translations)

1923 Indiscretions (essays)

1923 Le Testament (one-act opera)

1924 Antheil and the Treatise on Harmony (essays)

1925 A Draft of XVI Cantos (poems)

1926 Personae: The Collected Poems of Ezra Pound

1927 Exile (poems)

1928 A Draft of the Cantos 17–27 (poems)

1928 Selected Poems edited by T. S. Eliot

1928 Ta Hio: The Great Learning, newly rendered into the American language


1930 A Draft of XXX Cantos (poems)

1930 Imaginary Letters (essays)

1931 How to Read (essays)

1933 ABC of Economics (essays)

1933 Cavalcanti (three-act opera)

1934 Eleven New Cantos: XXXI-XLI (poems)

1934 Homage to Sextus Propertius (poems/translation)

1934 ABC of Reading (essays)

1935 Make It New (essays)

1936 Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry, by Ernest Fenollosa, edited and with a foreword and notes by Ezra Pound

1937 The Fifth Decade of Cantos (poems)

1937 Polite Essays (essays)

1937 Digest of the Analects by Confucius (translation)

1938 Guide to Kulchur (essays)

1939 What Is Money For? (essays)

1940 Cantos LII-LXXI (poems)

1944 Introduzione alla Natura Economica degli S.U.A. (prose)

1947 Confucius: the Unwobbling Pivot & the Great Digest (translation)

1949 Elektra (a play by Ezra Pound and Rudd Fleming)

1948 The Pisan Cantos (poems)

1950 Seventy Cantos (poems)

1951 Confucian Analects (translation)

1953 The Translations of Ezra Pound (translations)

1955 Section: Rock-Drill, 85–95 de los Cantares (poems)

1956 Sophocles: The Women of Trachis. A Version by Ezra Pound (translation)

1959 Thrones: 96–109 de los Cantares (poems)

1960 IMPACT: Essays on Ignorance and the Decline of American Civilization

1968 Drafts and Fragments: Cantos CX-CXVII (poems)



Selected posthumous works:


1975 Selected Poems, 1908-1959 (poems)

1976 Collected Early Poems

1975 The Cantos (ISBN 0-8112-1326-9)

1997 Ezra Pound and Music (essays)

1990 Personae: The Shorter Poems of Ezra Pound

1992 A Walking Tour of Southern France: Ezra Pound among the Troubadours (ISBN 0-8112-1223-8)

2002 Canti postumi (poems) (ISBN 88-04-51031-5)

2003 Ego scriptor cantilenae: The Music of Ezra Pound (operas/music)

2003 Ezra Pound: Poems and Translations (ISBN 978-1-931082-41-9)

2005 Early Writings (ISBN 0-14-218913-0)



Ezra Pound was a very skilled poet, as can be seen from the following poem:




The apparition of these faces in the crowd ;

Petals on a wet, black bough.



and a very skilled translator, as can be seen from the following translation:




The jeweled steps are already quite white with dew,
It is so late the dew soaks my gauze stockings,
And I let down the crystal curtain
And watch the moon through the clear autumn


by Rihaku


Note.—Jewel stairs, therefore a palace. Grievance, therefore there is something to complain of. Gauze stockings, therefore a court lady, not a servant who complains. Clear autumn, therefore he has no excuse on account of the weather. Also she has come early, for the dew has not merely whitened the stairs, but soaks her stockings. The poem is especially prized because she utters no direct reproach.



If you get a chance to read some of Ezra Pound’s poetry, then do so. It is clear, precise, interesting, beautiful poetry.


Ezra Pound’s books are available at:


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Mimique by R J Dent

July 11, 2010

Mimique by R J Dent

He stands on an unlit stage in a darkened theatre.

A single spotlight beams down, illuminating his whitened face and white-gloved hands. He is enacting the commedia dell’arte story of Harlequin and Columbine. He is playing both parts and he is now acting – miming – the scene in which Harlequin stands over the dead Columbine, wishing she could be alive once more. He clutches a tiny purple flower – an Aquilegia vulgaris – in his left hand. He sniffs the flower. A single tear trickles down his face, leaving a dark trail. When it dries, it will be a diamond. Read more…

R J Dent says: ‘My story, Mimique, was inspired by Stéphane Mallarmé’s Mimique, which can be found in his seminal collection Divagations.’

The French text of  Mallarmé’s Mimique can be found here:

Text: Mimique © R J Dent (2009)

Image: Harlequin by Justin Robertson