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The Chimeras [Paperback]

Richard Holmes , Gérard De Nerval , Peter Jay

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Book Description

14 Feb 1985
Gérard de Nerval's sonnets `Les Chimères' were first published as a group in 1854, a year before his suicide at the age of 46. The poems were nearly a dozen years in the making, and their genius was slow to be accepted. Now they are generally regarded as a key work in nineteenth-century poetry, linking romanticism and symbolism. The tributes to Nerval come from writers as different as Proust, Arthur Symons and T.S. Eliot, who quoted him in the last lines of `The Waste Land'.

This edition presents the poems in French with a facing translation which, while aiming at an exacting verbal fidelity, is intended to be read as a poetic sequence in English. Both Richard Holmes, who contributes an essay on Nerval's symbolic method, and Peter Jay, who responds with an account of the translation problems, consider that for all their renowned obscurity, the poems are direct and enormously moving. They believe that the spiritual quest at the heart of these twelve sonnets is as vital as ever.

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About the Author

Peter Jay has published a collection of poems, `Shifting Frontiers', a version of `The Song of Songs', and translations of selections from the poetry of Nichita Stanescu, Stefan Aug. Doinas and János Pilinszky. He edited `The Greek Anthology' in translation for Penguin Classics, and is completing a volume of Sappho and other early Greek lyric poets.

Richard Holmes is the award-winning author of `Shelley: the Pursuit'. He has also published biographical-critical studies of Chatterton and Coleridge. He has edited a selection of Shelley's mainly prose writings, `Shelley on Love', and translated a collection of ghost stories, `My
Fantoms', by Nerval's friend, Théophile Gautier. `Footsteps', his adventures of a romantic biographer, was published in 1985.

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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the veil lifted 6 Feb 2001
By Col. D - Published on Amazon.com
Nerval's work brings us to a moment when the Western mind was losing faith and seeking a way out. Drifting through the "forest of symbols" in the mid 19th century, Nerval anticipated everything from Symbolism to Surrealism. Baudelaire and his children may have found many dark visions, but Nerval first illuminated the hidden path. "Chimeras" is a work that is both romantic and bitter. Goddesses are profaine and unattainable. The muse bestows a bitter blessing, for one of the great themes of this sonnet sequence is the inability to reconcile the real and the unreal. Many poets have mined this idea since, but this trailblazing work still holds its power. Few poems can match the unforgettable closing sonnet, "Vers Dorees", a fierce message to modern man. "Freethinking" humanity must humble itself, for it cannot control "life that bursts in everything". So charged is this poem, that the final line, "a pure spirit lies beneath the skin of stones", pushes the reader to the limits of reason.
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