This was interesting, although in part for an unexpected reason. I had looked forward to reading it as a complement to Nadja and Paris Peasant, and beThis was interesting, although in part for an unexpected reason. I had looked forward to reading it as a complement to Nadja and Paris Peasant, and because I had only read brief snippets by Soupault.
As it turned out, the most intriguing aspect for me wasn't the plot, but Soupault's style. Awhile back I had struggled to translate a relatively brief selection by this author, and although my French is reasonably good I had to have my translation looked over because I was unsure it was accurate. We discussed the best way to translate a couple of words, but apparently my translation was not bad. While I daresay it could be improved, it seems to have captured something of Soupault's style, which was borne out by the sense of intense familiarity I now experienced reading William Carlos Williams's translation of Last Nights of Paris.
Part of what I translated:
"Toyen respects neither charm, nor tenderness, nor this species of affectation which fades like the smiles of older women. She attacks wrinkles which are the simplest lines of life. Behind these characteristics and nuances, a weighty gravity like that of prayers stays the clasped hands. "Toyen remains a painter who does not torture, who does not charm. She seeks in painting a reality more obvious than that of sad or merry eyes according to the hours. "Her confederate Štyrský wants to discover boundaries. He paints with a needle. He fixes more precise limits." (from Philippe Soupault, Styrsky et Toyen, Galerie Vavin, Paris, 1927)
Since Last Nights of Paris is a novel, much of it is easier reading, but it has its share of this kind of poetic diction....more
Whenever I return to Nadja, I find myself yet again in that strange, not entirely comprehensible, yet utterly compelling space which I experienced wheWhenever I return to Nadja, I find myself yet again in that strange, not entirely comprehensible, yet utterly compelling space which I experienced when first I read Nadja in my twenties. True, now I know who Aragon, Peret, Desnos, Ernst, Baudelaire, and Fanny Beznos were, but merely being better informed does little to change the overall effect. One of the formative books of my adult life. Often one grows out of books, but I don't find that I've at all grown out of this one....more