Monday, December 21, 2009

Tristan Derème et la lune

I was reading Tristan Derème's Le Poisson Rouge (Grasset, 1934) last night and came upon the following passage, which immediately struck a chord.
...tandis qu'entre deux nuages apparaissait la lune. Elle était quasi transparente et si légère que l'on craignait, si elle se heurtait à la pointe du peuplier, qu'elle ne se brisât comme une bulle de savon.
Now, re-read Vérane's 1911 Le Nain qui Jonglait....

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Contrerime XI

Contrerime XI is subtitled C' était longtemps avant la guerre.
This is the original:

Sur la banquette en moleskine
   Du sombre corridor,
Aux flonflons d' Offenbach s' endort
   Une blanche Arlequine.

... Zo' qui saute entre deux MMrs,
   Nul falzar ne dérobe
Le double trésor sous sa robe
   Qu' ont mûri d' autres cieux.

On soupe... on sort... Bauby pérore...
   Dans ton regard couvert,
Faustine, rit un matin vert...
   ... Amour, divine aurore.

Tricky to translate in the Toulet rhyme-scheme, but here's my attempt.

On a moleskin sofa
   in the dim wings
Harlequin grabs forty winks
   during Offenbach’s om-pah.

Zo' leaps between two guys
   flaunting an ass
(underwear? Pass!)
   tanned ‘neath tropic skies

One sups…one leaves…Bauby declaims…
   in your veiled glances,
Faustine, a new dawn dances…
   …Love, divine flame.

Some notes are needed to decipher some of Toulet's more arcane references.
Léopold Bauby (1867-1933) born seven days after Toulet, was one of Toulet’s best friends (and friend of Francis Jammes, who wrote of him: “un délicieux vieux garçon, aimable autant que savant et artiste". He was curator of the museum at Pau. He was the nephew of the Provencal writer Adrien Planté, mayor of Orthez, and possessed a library famous for its size and quality. His memoire of Toulet and he going to school can be found on p. 1377, of Laffont's edition of Toulet's Oeuvres Complètes, note 10. Gimeno, in his Spanish edition, remarks that in the poem Bauby is a poetic character without connotations. For a correct reading of verse rhythm, this name must be read in the French accent. Also, MMrs should be pronounced Messieurs in its entirety.
Moleskin: originally referring to the short, silky fur of a mole, moleskin is heavy cotton fabric, woven and then sheared to create a short soft pile on one side. The word is also used for clothing made from this fabric.
Zo': Female character created by Toulet; appears also in other places in his poems and prose works. It is a Créole source (Zoe or Zoroaide) of Mauritius in particular, where Toulet spent some time in his youth. It should be noted that the same character can acquire, according to context, different attributes and connotations.
Faustine: emblem of the girls of Bearn - easy (going?) shopgirls, domestics etc. No real possibility of an exact correlation in real life.
Falzar: Argot et familiar. Pantalon. Son falzar, il ne tenait plus qu'avec des ficelles et des épingles de nourrice (Louis-Ferdinand CÉLINE, Mort à crédit, 1936.)
Tout l'hiver j'avais fait la guerre dans les pantalons noirs d'un curé, falzar que j'avais découvert au presbytère de Frise, en fouinant dans un placard (Blaise CENDRARS, Main coupée, 1946)
I don't need to explain Offenbach, but Gimeno makes this interesting observation:
"One of the various portraits that Nadar did (of Offenbach) summarizes an entire world, the end of the Second Empire, the neck wrapped in marten fur, aged, the face deeply Semitic, his look worn by sarcasm and melancholy."