You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Anna de Noailles’ category.

New Publications:   The New York based publisher Contra Mundum is bringing out some interesting new books, notably a bi-lingual (French/English) edition of Self-Shadowing Prey by the surrealist Romanian poet Ghérasim Luca (to be reviewed in these pages), a new translation fo Gilgamesh, also a “long out of print study on Keats Negative Capability :the Intuitive Approach in Keats by W. J. Bate.  See info@contramundum.net

Internet and Language :  Debate rages as to whether the Internet will have or has already had a net good or bad effect on the English language.  Alexa Russel who writes for an English website has sent in the following article: .

The Profound Effect the Internet Has Had on the English Language   by Alexa Russell

Spelling errors abound on the Internet, where individuals can publish any amount of content without using an editor or spell-check software. This concerns many who feel that we already have too much difficulty discerning “too,” “two” and “to” or “their” from “they’re.” For others, however, the Internet is proving that the rules of the English language are almost secondary to its usage and can be simplified for effective communication. This debate will only intensify as shortened forms of communication through digital means become more ubiquitous.
Some have found that the development of Internet-based communication has only served to cause greater confusion when trying to communicate through those avenues. A personal piece printed by the Hamilton Spectator in June 2012 discusses the author’s attempts to follow the seemingly ever-changing rules of Internet communication. “Now,” Jeff Mahoney writes, “for the first time in my experience, I’m getting corrected on my emoticons.”
One of the problems with looser grammatical rules for Internet communication is the lack of a formal set of rules. Without realizing it, an individual can look unhip by adding a nose to her emoticon or using the wrong acronym to indicate a personal state. This can add to the anxiety of trying to draft a message to others.
Others argue that lax spelling standards should be embraced as they don’t hinder actual communication; rather, they make communication more efficient. In January 2012, Wired Magazine announced that it was “Tyme to Let Luce” in a feature article on the effects of autocorrect on texting. The piece argues that attempts to improve writing with autocorrect software hampers the ability to communicate more than improper spelling.
“Autocorrect and spellcheckers are wrongheaded because they reinforce a traditional spelling standard,” writes Anne Trubeck for Wired. Although consistent spelling was necessary in the traditional print era, where publishing was consolidated to a small amount of companies and individuals, spelling rules today get in the way of digital communication between any two parties.
Advocates of lax restrictions on spelling believe that letting individuals figure out how to spell certain words while in active communication is a much more organic form of language development than commitment to archaic grammar rules. Instead of autocorrect, language-recognition software programs like Siri are the future of clarity in communication to them.
Still, the development of casual forms of communication has created a gap between the technically illiterate and chronic texters. In some cases, special classes are used to close this communication gap, which is most prevalent between young adults and the elderly. In 2010 the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand sponsored a texting workshop aimed at informing elderly individuals about the different rules of communication used in texting and other digital forms. The workshop was exalted for promoting improvement of mental health and wellbeing for entire communities by improving communication.
Language rules which were impenetrable for centuries are now different from generation to generation. This often requires more work to communicate across different age groups, which may respect entirely different sets of grammatical rules. However, the efficiencies created when both parties are familiar with the spelling rules used can make casual communication a highly efficient method of sharing information.

(Alexa Russell writes for an English website that discusses how these and other issues are being taught at English colleges and universities around the globe.)

Queries for a Practising Translator :   John Dewey and Graham Mummery have already sent in completed ‘questionnaires’ for which many thanks (see previous posts). But maybe I ought to add to this by answering my own questions :

Q1. Do you only ever translate from a language you  know well? (If “No” Do you get help from a native speaker? )  Yes. Even for this language (French) I consult native speakers as well.  

Q2.  Do you prefer to read other translations of the piece you are translating?  (a) Before starting  (b) After making a first draft (c) Never  ?      (b) Only to check what someone else has made of an obscure passage.

 Q3.  Do you use a dictionary?  If “Yes”, do you use a foreign language/English dictionary or a dictionary in the source language itself?  Both. I recently resolved only to use the Robert French/French dictionary but I soon found I had to compromise on this.

 Q4. Do you show your translation to anyone before sending it off?  Prose, yes; poetry, no, as a rule.

 Q5. Do you ever translate books or poems you don’t like?  If “Yes”, does this bother you when translating? Only time I did this was a disaster : the publisher to be got a lousy translation and I was lucky to get paid anything at all.  

Q6.  Do you work regular hours or in spurts ‘when you feel like it’?  Regular spurts aided by Bacchus.

Q7. Do you use stimulants (e.g. coffee, alcohol, drugs) to ‘get started’?   Red wine is essential for lyric poetry and poetic prose. When my doctor banned alcohol completely I stopped translating or writing poetry and have not gone back to it (transalting poetry I mean).  A study conducted by the New Scientist came to the conclusion that alcohol “does not make you more creative but can make you feel more creative”. But ‘feeling’ more creative is often what you need : it unlocks the word-hoard.

Q8. Could you give examples of particular difficulties in translating poems or prose from a specific language ? Have you any tips about how to get round these difficulties? Chief difficulty with French is when you have a highly stylized author such as Jouhandeau whom I am currently translating : does one imitate the somewhat old-fashioned diction or modernize for comprehensibility? Scott Moncrieff’s (already ancient) translation of Proust is much less stylized than the original mainly because Proust makes copious use of the subjunctive, though Scott does imitate Proust’s rec0rd-breaking long sentences.

Q9.  Do you see yourself as a ‘literal’ translator or a ‘free’ one?  Free. Prefer to ‘get the spirit’.

Q10. When translating rhymed poetry, do you try to imitate the rhyme scheme and metre?  (a) always; (b) sometimes; (c) never ?  (b) If the rhyme/stamza form seems important as in the case, say, of a sonnet, I always try to keep to the form though I allow myself to make slight changes in the rhyme scheme if necessary. Also, curiously, I find a twelve syllable line comes more naturally to me than the usual English ten-syllable line so this helps when translating French poetry in (twelve syllable) alexandrines.

Sebastian Hayes is the author of Rimbaud Revisited & Une Saison en Enfer A New Translation (Brimstone 2010) and of The Trace I Wish to Leave translations from the French of Anna de Naoilles and Six Poems from the French of Catherine Pozzi (Hague Press Limited Edition).  S.H. 11/08/12

L’âme et le corps 1d   (Click here to access the recording)

                                                 L’Ame et le Corps

Ils ont inventé l’âme afin que l’on abaisse
Le corps, unique lieu de rêve et de raison,
Asile du désir, de l’image et des sons,
Et par qui tout est mort dès le moment qu’il cesse.

Ils nous imposent l’âme, afin que lâchement
On détourne les yeux du sol, et qu’on oublie
Après l’injurieux ensevelissement,
Que sous le vin vivant tout est funèbre lie.

— Je ne commettrai pas envers votre bonté
Envers votre grandeur, secrète mais charnelle,
O corps désagrégés, o confuses prunelles,
La trahison de croire à votre éternité.

Je refuse l’espoir, l’altitude, les ailes,
Mais étrangère au monde et souhaitant le froid
De vos affreux tombeaux, trop bas, trop étroits
J’affirme, en recherchant vos nuits vastes et vaines,
Qu’il n’est rien qui survive à la chaleur des veines !

                                    from L’Honneur de Souffrir (1927) 

The Soul and the Body

The soul was first conceived in order to demean
The body, the domain of dreams and reasoning,
Sole source of our desire, of all that’s heard and seen,
For when it stops, it marks the close of everything.

They foist the soul upon us, so we cannot see
What’s underneath our feet, and in our cowardice
Deny our squalid end, the grim reality
That when the wine is drunk, there’s nothing but the lees.

O shattered bodies, eyes whose fire is at an end,
I shall not now commit the shameful  treachery
Against your greatness and your beauty to pretend
That you are as you were for all eternity.

No. I refuse all hope, distrust sublimity,
I am an outcast from your world and  I invite
The chill of your ignoble tombs, so mean, so small,
For I declare, on contemplating that vast night,
That once our blood is cold, it is the end of all.

Translated by Sebastian Hayes

Click here for audio of L’Empreinte by Anna de Noailles, read by Julia Slade

This poem, beautifully read by Julia Slade, was presented at the very first meeting of the series I organized at the Poetry Cafe on  27 January 2010 — indeed, the title of the series, The Trace They Wished To Leave, refers to the first line of my translation of this poem. Below you can find the original French and my English translation and interested readers are referred to the linked website www.annadenoailles.com  where you will find other poems of Anna de Noailles translated and commentaries on the œuvre of this great forgotten poet of the Belle Époque era.

                   L’Empreinte                                        

Je m’appuierai si bien et si fort à la vie,
D’une si rude étreinte et d’un tel serrement,
Qu’avant que la douceur du jour me soit ravie
Elle s’échauffera de mon enlacement.

La mer, abondamment sur le monde étalée,
Gardera, dans la route errante de son eau,
Le goût de ma douleur qui est âcre et salée
Et sur les jours mouvants roule comme un bateau.

Je laisserai de moi dans le pli des collines
La chaleur de mes yeux qui les ont vu fleurir,
Et la cigale assise aux branches de l’épine
Fera vibrer le cri strident de mon désir.

Dans les champs printaniers la verdure nouvelle
Et le gazon touffu sur le bord des fossés
Sentiront palpiter et fuir comme des ailes
Les ombres de mes mains qui les ont tant pressés.

La nature qui fut ma joie et mon domaine
Respirera dans l’air ma persistante ardeur,
Et sur l’abattement de la tristesse humaine
Je laisserai la forme unique de mon cœur…

                              from Le Cœur Innombrable (1901) 

The Trace I Wish to Leave

I aim to thrust myself against this life so hard,
And clasp it to me fiercely, leaving such a trace,
That when the sweetness of these days I must discard
The world will keep awhile the warmth of my embrace.

The sea, spread out across the globe so lavishly,
On stormy days my fitful memory will sustain,
And in its myriad, random motions ceaselessly
Preserve the acrid, salty, savour of my pain.

What will be left of me in heath and windswept coomb?
My blazing eyes will set the yellow gorse on fire,
And the cicada perched upon a sprig of broom
Will sound the depth and poignancy of my desire.

Each spring, in fertile meadows where the skylark sings,
In lanes and wayside ditches where wild flowers grow,
The tufted  grass will tremble at the touch of unseen wings,
The phantoms of my hands that held them long ago.

My joy and restless passion will not die with me,
Nature will breathe me in, making of me a part
Of all that lives, while sorrowing humanity
Will hold the individual profile of my heart.

Translation Sebastian Hayes

 Anna de Noailles (1876–1933)   was an acclaimed poet, novelist and woman of letters during the Belle Époque but is now almost entirely forgotten. An acclaimed beauty sculpted by Rodin, at least one young man in Paris allegedly committed suicide because of her. As a poet, she is full of fire and unashamed sensuality and saw herself as a female Nietzsche, a thinker she admired and whose philosophy she claimed to espouse. Stylistically, she resisted modern innovations such as ‘free verse’ and stream of consciousness techniques, keeping strictly to traditional verse forms.


L’offrande à la nature t1      Read by Julia Slade

          L’Offrande à la Nature

Nature au cœur profond sur qui les cieux reposent,
Nul n’aura comme moi si chaudement aimé,
La lumière des jours et la douceur des choses,
L’eau luisante et la terre où la vie a germé.

La forêt, les étangs et les plaines fécondes
Ont plus touché mes yeux que les regards humains,
Je me suis appuyé à la beauté du monde
Et j’ai tenu l’odeur des saisons dans mes mains.

J’ai porté vos soleils ainsi qu’une couronne
Sur mon front plein d’orgueil et de simplicité,
Mes jeux ont égalé les travaux de l’automne
Et j’ai pleuré d’amour aux bras de vos étés.

Je suis venue à vous sans peur et sans prudence
Vous donnant ma raison pour le bien et le mal,
Ayant pour toute joie et toute connaissance
Votre âme impétueuse aux ruses d’animal.

Comme une fleur ouverte où logent des abeilles
Ma vie a répandu des parfums et des chants,
Et mon cœur matineux est comme une corbeille
Qui vois offre du lierre et des rameaux penchants.

Soumise ainsi que l’onde où l’arbre se reflète,
J’ai connu des désirs qui brûlent dans vos soirs
Et qui font naître au cœur des hommes et des bêtes
La belle impatience et le divin vouloir.

Je vous tiens toute vive entre mes bras, Nature!
Ah! faut-il que mes yeux s’emplissent d’ombre un jour,
Et que j’aille au pays sans vent et sans verdure
Que ne visitent pas la lumière et l’amour…

                                     from   Le Cœur Innombrable (1901)
My Offering to Nature

Sustaining Nature from whom bosom all life springs,
None have adored you with such passion from their birth;
The light of days and all the tenderness of things,
The shining water and the dark and fruitful earth.

I lent against your beauty since my youth began;
Dark forests, mountain pools, the open fertile lands,
These touched my eyes more than the wandering looks of man,
I have the odour of the seasons on my hands.

Your suns I bore as a tiara on my brow,
With pride and innocence I answered to your charms,
Your autumn labours matched my childhood play, and how
I wept for joy when clasped within your summers’ arms.

I came to you most trustingly, wanting it so,
Denying sense and reason, be it for good or ill;
The recompense and prize I sought was just to know
Your fervent essence and your cunning animal will.

I am an open flower where bees can make their home,
My life has spread abroad perfume and song and dance,
My morning heart is like a basket filled with loam
And trailing boughs that blooms and foliage enhance.

Like water I reflect the overarching trees,
And willingly, at night, have yielded to that fire
That fills both beasts and men, inspiring without cease
A wild abandonment and a sublime desire.

I hold you breathing at my breast, Nature, my own!
And must I live with shadows and exchange all this
For that drear landscape, grassless, windless and unknown,
Where neither sun nor moon will shine and no love is ?

Translation by Sebastian Hayes

 

 

 

 

 

Anna de Noailles was, during the Belle Epoque, a well known  poet, novelist and public figure. She has subsequently dropped almost completely out of view and when I first came across a poem of hers in an Anthology of French Poetry not a single full-length book was in print in French. For me, however, it was love at first sight : I found in her, apart from considerable technical ability, all the fire and controlled intensity which I admire in poetry and a stance towards life which, if not quite my own, is certainly one that I respect. The poem in question was  L’Empreinte which I have translated as follows

The Trace I Wish to Leave

I aim to thrust myself against this life so hard,
And clasp it to me fiercely, leaving such a trace,
That when the sweetness of these days I must discard
The world will keep awhile the warmth of my embrace.

The sea, spread out across the globe so lavishly,
On stormy days my fitful memory will sustain,
And in its myriad, random motions ceaselessly
Preserve the acrid, salty, savour of my pain.

What will be left of me in heath and windswept coomb?
My blazing eyes will set the yellow gorse on fire,
And the cicada perched upon a sprig of broom
Will sound the depth and poignancy of my desire.

My joy and restless passion will not die with me,
Nature will breathe me in, making of me a part
Of all that lives, while sorrowing humanity
Will hold the individual profile of my heart.

(The orginal French, along with translations of other poems and articles and commentaries on Anna de Noailles, can be found on the website http://www.annadenoailles.com )

Anna de Noailles admired Nietzsche, at the time still relatively unknown outside Germany, and espoused his philosophy, in some respects taking it further than Nietzsche did himself (though she lacked the philosophic finesse and scope of the German philosopher). I have, in my own website (www.sebastianhayes.co.uk) written of the fundamental dichotomy between life-affirming and life-denying philosophies, the first epitomized by Nietzsche and the second by Schopenhauer and studied this conflict in three ‘Novels of Love and War’  (Gone with the Wind, War and Peace and A Leaf in the Storm).

Nietzsche was prepared to go very far in accepting, indeed applauding, what one might call the biological basis of life which includes struggle, self-assertion, passion, pain and suffering as well as joy. For Schopenhauer, on the contrary, life, especially human life, was a horrifying spectacle of self-delusion and futile striving after the unattainable from which the only permanent release was  the quiescence of the Buddhist Nirvana, and the only temporary release an attitude of resignation assisted by the soothing powers of music (which Schopenhauer considered the highest of the arts).

Anna de Noailles, like Nietzsche, considered that to live life to the full it was necessary to decisively reject any hope (or fear) of personal survival and expressed this in about as extreme and concise a way as has ever been done before or since in her poem L’Ame et le Corps. Surprisingly, this poem was written when she was in her maturer years, not during  during the first flush of defiant youth as one might expect.

The Soul and the Body

The soul was first conceived in order to demean
The body, the domain of dreams and reasoning,
Sole source of our desire, of all that’s heard and seen,
For when it stops, it marks the close of everything.

They foist the soul upon us, so we cannot see
What’s underneath our feet, and in our cowardice
Deny our squalid end, the grim reality
That when the wine is drunk, there’s nothing but the lees.

O shattered bodies, eyes whose fire is at an end,
I shall not now commit the shameful  treachery
Against your greatness and your beauty to pretend
That you are as you were for all eternity.

No. I refuse all hope, distrust sublimity,
I am an outcast from your world and  I invite
The chill of your ignoble tombs, so mean, so small,
For I declare, on contemplating that vast night,
That once our blood is cold, it is the end of all.

Though Anna de Noailles wrote a good number of poems on fairly innocuous themes like the beauty of Nature — like Wordsworth she published too much — some of her more trenchant poems are almost too much for me, let alone her contemporaries. For example, she opens her poem Exaltation with these lines

I have the taste for what is ardent and intense,
Delirious crowds and bodies, a heroic role
In life, such bitter, acrid smells are like incense
To my tumultuous heart and my excessive soul.

It is difficult, not to say impossible, for anyone today in the post-Hitler era to admit so frankly to an enthusiasm for “delirious crowds and bodies”, but there is no point in denying that the excitement of such scenes is intense and contagious as anyone who has been on a mass demonstration knows. To be fair to Anna de Noailles, her social and political views were extremely advanced for her time and class — she refused to give way to the anti-semitic hysteria which swept through France at the time of the Dreyfus affair and even had the courage  to publicly oppose France’s entry into World War I,  though she somewhat modified her stance later out of a concern for the troops. In any case,  people of that era cannot be expected to have anticipated the rise of Nazism — though  I certainly feel  that today the out and out  admirers of Nietzsche, and for that matter Darwin, are being  dishonest and cowardly in refusing to admit that both these thinkers  prepared the ground for Nazism, whether they would have approved the eventual outcome or not.

Given the trenchant views of Anna de Noailles on certain subjects which  scandalized, though at the same time, fascinated the French intelligentsia who were still by and large  Catholic at the time, I must admit to being a little disappointed when I came to find out more about her actual life. In flagrant contrast to the poete maudit image, she seems to have been rather too  successful for my liking  : born a Greek/Roumanian princess, she married a French Count, was an admired beauty sculpted by Rodin and hosted a select salon attended by Proust, Gide, Valery, Rostand, Cocteau — you name them.  At least one young man  reputedly committed suicide because of her and she attracted the intermittent life-long attention of one of the most prestigious  public figures of the day, Maurice Barres, novelist and extreme Right-wing politician, seemingly becoming his mistress though the affair was carefully hushed up.

All this is not quite what I expected and indeed is  one of the reasons for her passing out of fashion. The Dadaists actually staged a mock trial of Maurice Barres, condemned him to death and hanged his effigy after the end of World War I.  Anna de Noailles did at least have the integrity of not allowing this somewhat unappealing individual to influence her social and political views : she had several Jewish friends, for example.

Anna de Noailles shows, in her writings, a preoccupation with death which is medieval rather than modern, since it is the process of physical disintegration which at once horrifies and fascinates her  — I go into this in more detail in my article on the Anna de Noailles website (www.annadenoailles.com) entitled Liebestod.  Thankfully,  Anna de Noailles just managed to escape the twentieth-century snake-pit of psychoanalysis and she never declines into the obsessive  self-absorption and self-pity of such female writers as Anne Seton and Sylvia Plath with whom she has superficial affinities.

Technically, Anna de Noailles resisted ‘modern’ literary techniques such as ‘free verse’ and ‘stream of consciousness’. Dionysian in philosophy and stance, she is Apollonian in style — a powerful combination.

For those who wish to find out more about Anna de Noailles  there exists a scholarly  full-length study by Catherine Perry, Persephone Unbound : Dionysian Aesthetics in the Works of Anna de Noailles.  The principal French biography, alas currently out of print, is by Claude Mignot-Ogliastri who has also edited two volumes of Anna de Noailles’ very interesting Correspondence.

It would seem that a long overdue revival of interest in Anna de Noailles has commenced, since there now exists a Cercle d’Anna de Noailles, (http://cercleannadenoailles.fr) founded by M. Alexandre d’Oriano with President, Mme Eugenie de Brancovan, the only surviving member of the de Noailles’ family, I believe. Also, Buchet/Chastel have recently brought out one of Anne de Noailles’ novels, Les Innocentes ou la Sagesse des Femmes. I can well imagine that one day soon there will be a Hollywood film based on the life and times of this fascinating and talented Belle Epoque femme fatale.

Archives