Thursday, August 6, 2015


Julien Gracq (1910-2007)

"Three-quarters of the most beautiful French poetry was written between 1845 and 1885. How can we doubt it? ........  And that is what makes all the anthologies of French poetry so derisory and fraudulent, concerned as they are with balance and symmetry, uniformly trying to force the sterile years, to make them blossom in spite of everything, as their title gives them an obligation: how to accept that poetry does not know the regular rhythms of horticulture, that so many decades, even centuries, pass without knowing their springtime?"

"What remains is the case of Racine, who poses a quasi-insoluble problem, a problem that Shakespeare  where poetry crazes the text at every moment, fills it with stars and perfectly isolatable asteroids, even as the drama subjects them to its powerful gravitation  does not pose at all in England. This is the problem of a poetry that is both "pure" to the highest degree and soluble to the last particle in the dramatic action it has just served, crushed under a state duty that lessens none of its integrity. Shakespeare's poetry bursts forth at all times in sublime singing exercises: not a syllable in Racine is allowed to suspend the intelligible line of tragedy even for an instant. Where do we classify (but why classify?) the author of a poetry that is purely unalloyed yet ineffably delinquent?"

 From Julien Gracq's Reading Writing (Turtle Point Press, 2006) translated by Jeanine Herman from the original text of 1980, En lisant en √©crivant.