Thus, the problem of simultaneity is resolved in Kaplan's insistence on providing the reader with a coexistential, nonnormative series of snapshots, "insignificant" events, and sound or color sketches that document a given moment. Through them, a story of passion unfolds in which individuals find themselves in the protective custody of "real" clouds, smoke, noises, people, buses.
The reader recognizes the world within which fiction evolves—in the case of Le Pont de Brooklyn , a world that is close at hand for many American readers, since the novel appears to be situated in New York. Kaplan's portrayal of New York lends itself to immediate recognition, and yet in the novel's scriptural insistence, it disturbs the conventional, passive relation between reader and text. This double aspect—in which narrative is combined with an ever-present writerly preoccupation—produces a novel that is fiction in the generally accepted sense, all the while resembling poetry as it locates and then dislocates the site of the real.
Two examples highlight the differences and similarities between Kaplan's fiction and that of American practitioners of the genre: first, Marge Piercy's Summer People , and second, Raymond Carver's short story "Feathers. The beginning of the novel is so fact-filled that the reader is immediately gratified as he or she meets the principal players. The writing doubles the accessibility of the narration. It is conventional in its use of realistic props as it describes and transcribes the ways people speak and think.
There is nothing here that unsettles or challenges the reader; nothing that makes the reader consider the place of language or the style of writing.
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This novel, and the hundreds like it published each year, testify to the persistent allegiance to subject matter in order to minimize resistance on the part of readers. The second example, from Carver's collection Cathedral New York: Knopf, , is totally unlike the above model. The visibility of the writing a characteristic usually associated with poetry directs the reader toward a sophisticated discordance with traditional fictional purposes—to assure an easy passage from topic to reader's reception. The care accorded to language, rhythm, structure, syntax, and silence all amount to a passion for writing akin to that of French writers.
The translations of Carver's stories and the critical acclaim accorded to his work in France attest to a correspondence between his sensibility and the one I have been defining. Here too, as in Marge Piercy's work, oral qualities are present. In Piercy's novel they constitute a mimetic exercise; in Carver's story they form a strategy to lull the reader into recognizing his or her own universe, or at least one possible universe, resembling a Sam Shepard play.
However weird, "Feathers" defines an "American way of life," just as Edward Hopper's paintings have done. Perhaps the topical analyses of Hopper's work facilitate a certain critical refusal to enter into the coded world of both psychological motivation and scriptural insistence. In addition to lyricism, narration, formalism, voice, and the body, an important element of the new poetics in France is the influence of American poetry, in which the above elements are to some degree objectified.
This influence does not exclude other foreign influences, of course, but for French avant-garde poets, the American model has been privileged ever since the sixties. Translation is an odd practice, as many theoreticians have demonstrated, from Saint Jerome to Walter Benjamin. One particularity is of special interest here: Why have certain American poets received acclaim in France, while others, though translated, remain marginal?
Why, specifically, have Ezra Pound and the Objectivists, and in more recent times the Language Poets including Charles Bernstein, who translated one of Claude Royet-Journoud's books of poetry into English , become.
Why have these poets been invited to French poetry festivals? Why, at another moment, were the Beats so appreciated? In the first place one might cite the distinctiveness of American poetry and prose beginning in the late fifties. What was happening in American literature and in the theater as well bore almost no resemblance to the French concerns of the Tel Quel years. The attraction of opposites can also be seen in the other direction: Americans discovered the nouveau roman through publishers such as Grove Press and George Braziller and the Evergreen Review.
From the postwar years on, and especially in the more prosperous sixties and seventies, cultural exchanges between France and the U. These connections were marked by invitations to poetry festivals, public readings, and publications of contemporary American poetry in French anthologies representing an avant-garde view of current American poetic production.
Its charm was its espousal of an absolutely antithetical poetics. Jacques Roubaud, then one of the keenest readers of American poetry, is quick to admit that he found it so attractive precisely because of its "otherness.
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Nothing quite like it had ever been written in France, where at that time any sign of romanticism in the realm of letters was rejected wholesale. The American model which went beyond poetry, encompassing Raymond Chandler's novels and Jerry Lewis's films, as well as those two ubiquitous American viruses, blue jeans and T-shirts appeared as a dialectical Other, one that perhaps even proved the value of the French attitude in contrast to American practices, or more specifically to the American poet's lyrical presence in his or her text.
Levertov—were shaped by an often barely veiled autobiographical enterprise and characterized by common speech, a form generally alien to French poetry. Ever since the translations of some of the Cantos , by Denis Roche in ,  that poet became a literary fetish, but—as always in such cases—of an ambivalent kind. Was this ambivalence in part because Pound had failed to gain admission not only to mainstream American poetry but also to American intellectual life and that, of course, before World War II? Together with his poetics, his fascist, anti-Semitic politics assuredly contributed to his later, quasi-definitive exclusion.
That bit of pro—antiAmericanism cannot in itself account for his reception in France. As a result of this ambivalent status which was also the case for Louis Zukofsky , there was one Pound who could easily be assimilated to French avant-garde poetics and another who had to remain outside it. In the first instance, it is clear that Pound, as the paradigmatic figure of modernism, reassures the avant-garde reader and poet who can appreciate both the new forms developed in the Cantos and the traditional allusions to historical, literary, and mythological sources.
When Pound exclaimed that to translate, one had to "Make It New," he might not have been alluding only to that specific literary enterprise. This enticing formula could also define his own contribution—the way he worked, the way he conceived of his own poetics.
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The use of typography in the Cantos , the inclusion of foreign languages, and the mixing of linguistic registers, complete with colloquialisms and accented speech to mock. Pound's Jewish friend, the French medievalist Gustave Cohen —all these elements could "pass" into the French order of cultural artifacts. In the second instance, there is the "invisible" side to Pound's poetics. Whereas the signifier found a ready avant-garde public, the signified could not, in Pound's lifelong project to rewrite a Homeric epic in which, as he so succinctly stated, History would converge with personal experience.
In the sixties, when French poetics had renounced this postromantic historical posture—as it had with equal vigor rejected the accompanying lyrical voice, one able to carry the autobiographical concern—it was impossible to subscribe to Pound's whole project. He was thus at once present and absent: present, of course, in translations; absent as a wholly useful model for French avant-garde poetry. French translations of Louis Zukofsky's poetry further illustrate this absence. Much like his better-known friend and compatriot, Zukofsky has in recent years gained a small but impressive following in French avant-garde circles.
These readers see in the American Objectivist's poetics a model that preceded yet paralleled their own concerns. What, then, filters in to French? Quite evidently the rejection ot the sentimental, lyrical voice, and Zukofsky's metadiscourse, which informs his project and provides it with a theoretical justification—the intellectual analogy to Bach's fugues, especially the St. This formalism is clear in Zukofsky's treatment of language and placement of lines on the page.
His principles of verbal condensation, his retextualization of borrowed material, and his montage techniques, as well as his musical sonorities and use of punctuation and capitalization, all attest to his centrality in the world of French avant-garde poetics. It is also worth noting that his espousal of Marxism like Aragon's, from Marx through Stalin represents a perfectly recognizable legacy.
Finally, his reworking of classical rhetoric is the most readily acceptable lesson. But something else remains outside the cultural option, remains, so to speak, in the shadow of Zukofsky's legend and defies translation.
The rich vein of the spoken register in " A " is both a highly distinctive trait and a major stumbling block in assuring a commensurate restructuring of the American text within French poetic language. We find base or "obscene" sexual terms in Joseph Guglielmi's poetry, as in Joyce Mansour's surrealist poetry, but avant-garde poetics in France has no place for the inscription of a spoken text. There is no room for the newspaper editor's diction in " A "-1 or for Henry Ford's voice in " A " For the sake of poetic language, then, Zukofsky's commitment to a multiple linguistic experience is brushed aside.
The French unisemic code washes away what it considers impertinent information, unreadable material, renegotiating vulgarity within an acceptable aesthetic medium. The frenchification of Zukofsky's poetry forcefully reduces the impact of his poetics in France, or at the very least demonstrates the principles of cultural refraction noted above. A second difficulty appears on the conceptual level. What does not pass are three essential elements of " A ": the poem as a man's life; the epic project,.
The body, the voice, narration however elliptic , forms of lyricism—all point the way toward incorporating Zukofsky's multilayered autobiographical commentary into a possible French appreciation. And yet, both the epic poem as a genre and the historicization of the text remain as stumbling blocks. Furthermore, while Zukofsky has found favor among readers opposed to a surrealist, metaphor-laden poetics, they have failed, as far as I have been able to make out, to read his Jewishness into the text; thus, his translation and adaptation of Solomon Bloomgarden's Yiddish poems within " A " have gone unobserved.
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The lesson is clear. When Zukofsky or George Oppen, for that matter is translated, he serves a dual function: on a theoretical level, he is acknowledged as one of the principal innovators of twentieth-century American poetry; on a domestic level, he is brandished as an "outsider" to marshal forces against competing subcategories within the poetic avant-garde in France. Although Zukofsky is a glorious absence in booklength studies, his American adepts are prominent in French poetry festivals, translation workshops, and anthologies.
Reciprocally, though with less financial support, French poets have also been invited to the United States. Contacts are now better than ever between New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and various American universities and their corresponding organizations in Paris, Royaumont, and Marseille. Increasingly, cultural exchanges encourage poets and writers to participate in joint activities, including collective translations, thereby enriching the literary scene on both sides of the Atlantic. This cosmopolitanism is indicative of a new configuration in the world of letters: eloquently defined, systematically translated, the works of French and American poets and, to a lesser extent, fiction writers have now gained access to a broadening circle of readers and practitioners.
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Rich in variants, its multiple productions nonetheless all honor that contract between author, text, and reader that is founded on reality, textuality, and readability. The numerous translation projects on both sides of the Atlantic attest to this trend, which is essentially a shift toward recuperating meaning by exploiting themes taken from daily experience or from dramatic events, a communion of interests that envisages a telling compatibility between French and American poetry and poetics.
It is quite obvious, however, that the poets and writers who define contemporary French avant-garde writing do not fit into a popular mold. Though some may be amused by comic strips, television programs, newspaper headlines, or by reality itself, all these signs suffer from formal constraints. Today, writing may no longer imply hermetic forms, the nontranslatability of arcane deconstructive montages, or even the rejection of meaning in its conventional sense, but it still centers on a questioning of the processes of writing itself that has set the terms of the relation between theory and literary production for the past thirty years.
Rather than focus on discontinuities, in conclusion, I would like to borrow Derrida's concept that that which is has always been. Yet throughout, the stability of poetry and prose is apparent, reminding us of Apollinaire's insistence in La Jolie Rousse on a dual allegiance within the avant-garde, both to tradition and to innovation.
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Thus, no contemporary French poetics can deny its antecedents, which go back to the troubadours, when formalism was at its height. Nor can its most recent antecedents be banished, which accounts for the ambivalent relation that today's poetics maintains with its immediate past—what I have characterized as the Tel Quel perspective, with its radical theoretical interference within the creative work.
The days of those "excesses" may be gone, but no avant-. Serge Gavronsky: I often think of you as perhaps one of the greatest travelers in the world of letters!
You have carried off something quite unique in maintaining that energy which is yours, whether you're writing poetry, literary criticism, or philosophic essays. Could you talk about this continuing interest in translation, and perhaps in so doing connect it to your other activities? Michel Deguy: First of all, it corresponds to a personal history and so requires a bit of autobiography—but only as relevant to the matter at hand! In my background, in my Bildung , philosophy, poetry, and translation clearly coexist as a triad without any order.