December 1, 2008

Andree Chedid

Andrée Chedid [b. Egypt/France]

Born in Cairo, Egypt, Andrée Chedid grew up in a family of mixed Lebanese and Egyptian ancestry. She attended French schools, matriculating at the American University of Cairo. In 1942 she married a physican, Louis Chedid, and moved with him to Paris in 1946.

Chedid had already begun writing poetry, and would continue to publish works from 1949 onward. Her first major book, Textes pour une figure (1949) was followed with almost a book a year until the 1990s. Her major collected poems appear in Textes pour un poème, 1949-1970, published in 1987.

Chedid also published fiction beginning in 1952 with Le Sommeil de livre (From Sleep Unbound), and through the years has become a major novelist. Her work has been widely translated and established a noteable international audience. Among her other works of fiction are Le Sixieme Jour (The Sixth Day), La Maison sans racines (The Return to Beirut), and L'Enfant multiple (The Multiple Child).

Unlike her fiction, grounded as it is in the images and emotions of the Middle East, her poetry is, as she describes it, "free of time and place," having "no geographical boundaries," and belonging "to all lands." Her poetry is often autobiographical, but in its mix of history, fiction, myth and on occasion, magic, it is distilled from larger issues.

Chedid is also a well-known dramatist. She continues to live in Paris, where, despite her concerns with her heritage and her knowledge of Arabic, she feels most at home.


On the Trails of My Fancy (Cairo: Horus, 1943); Textes pour une figure (Paris: Pré-aux-Clercs, 1949); Textes pour un poème (Paris: Guy Levis-Mano, 1950); Textes pour le vivant (Paris: Guy Levis-Mano, 1953); Textes pour la terre aimée (Paris: Guy Levis-Mano, 1955); Terre et Poésie (Paris: Guy Levis-Mano, 1956); Terre regardée (Paris: Guy Levis-Mano, 1957); Seul le visage (Paris: Guy Levis-Mano, 1960); Double-Pays (Paris: Guy Levis-Mano, 1965); Contre-Chant (Paris: Flammarion, 1968); Visage premier (Paris: Flammarion, 1972); Prendre corps (Paris: Guy Levis-Mano, 1973); Voix multiples (Paris: Commune Measure, 1974); Fraternité de la parole (Paris: Flammarion, 1976); Ceremonial de la violence (Paris: Flammarion, 19760; Le Coeur et le temps (Paris: L'Ecole, 1977); Le Mort devant (Paris: Marc Pessin, 1977); Cadences de l'univers (Paris: Vodaine, 1978); Sommeil contradictoire (Dijon: Brandes, 1978); Greffes (Paris: Le Verbe et L'Empreinte, n.d.); Cavernes et Soleils (Paris: Flammarion, 1979); Epreuves du vivant (Paris: Flammarion, 1983); Sept Plantes pour un herbier (Romillé: Folle Avoine, 1983); Sept Textes pour un chant (Romillé: Folle Avoine, 1986); Textes pour un poème, 1949-1970 (Paris: Flammarion, 1987); Ancienne Egypt (Paris: Nouvelles Nouvelles, 1990); Poèmes pour un texte (Paris: Flammarion, 1991); Par delà les mots (Paris: Flammarion, 1995)


Selected Poems of Andrée Chedid, trans. by Judy Cochran (Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1995); Fugitive Suns: Selected Poetry, trans. by Lynne Goodhart and Jon Wagner (Los Angeles: Green Integer, 1999)

[Most of the poems printed below appear in Fugitive Suns, which may be purchased here.]


Beneath a sky crackled as a shell
I took the mountain path
To an arid vineyard

There pines bend
And fall into the ravines

Furtive winds beathe iln the trace
of my steps

I run toward the taciturn bridge
Which gathers the abyss

There is no epilogue

Even if the lamb falls from the shoulder of the shepherd
Fleeing in his owls' wing cape

Even if the forked tree
Breaks in two

—Translated from the French by Lynne Goodheart and Jon Wagner

(from Textes pour un poème, 1950)

First Image of Revolt

The woman without memories
Has left for the high lands
The ancestors' withered field

In the mornings of wrath
She runs dressed in black
Among the scattered flocks

Nothing is there
But a star village
Resting heavily on a hill.

—Translated from the French by Judy Cochran

(from Textes pour le vivant, 1953)

Land of Omens


All we have disappears
What we are remains
Seedilng itself even in winter

Light leaning on monsters
The acrid speech of the dead rising
in the dawn
Here again we want to know

But the sky lowers agailnst these hills
Lost the oracle's cries
The steps of the stranger lost
Soon as well the image
memory betrays
And we, unable to name our destiny
Lost for words among the shadows
What do we carry to our death?

Perhaps the surf
The cry the ever-cresting fire
This sweetness ojf another place
Sometimes golden on our lips

Life the lure that leads us on

—Translated from the French by Lynne Goodheart and Jon Wagner

(from Terre regardée, 1957)

Land of Dreams

I ran off with the child-king, who believed in the journey.

Over the bleak roofs, I cast our cloak of oblivion.
Then we fled,
Leaving the old oak's torn shadow
The creids of terror,
The sharp angles of our walls.
On my right shoulder, I carried the child-king.
Our footsteps across the parched land
Were as yielding as the throats of birds.

The child's eyes widened in the sun;
His garden, where silences reside,
Flourishes beneath the tree of life.

Because nothing is siimple, I ran off with the child-king

Now we are together:
His springtime
My autumn
Our magic
And my step.

Translated from the French by Judy Cochran

(from Terre regardée, 1957)

Proofs in Black and Gold

From a distance
Beneath the din of war
The earth moans endlessly

Savage the seasons
The body stops
Blood hardens
Faces, hands knot
In folds of death

Glistening with green shadows
Enlaced in holiday


Streams down
The shoulders of summer

—Translated from the French by Lynne Goodheart and Jon Wagner

(from Poèmes pour un texte, 1991)


The Truth is nothing but a lie
Tenacious lmirage of the living
It mocks our vigilance
And petrifies time

Truth is armed
Its spur the forbidden
Its bronze laws segregate us
Its words have walls and ceilings

Its single target a delusion
Sowings abound
Harvests are legion

Rather let us salue our fugitive suns
Words freed from symbols
Our paths on the move
Our multiple horizons

—Translated from the French by Lynne Goodheart and Jon Wagner

(from Poèmes pour un texte, 1991)

Resurrection or Resurrections


Before this Resurrection
This wind from other skies
This home in other worlds
This garden of aftaerward
whose compost and confines
escape the eye of the living
their hearts lined with memory
their bodies warped by time

Unable to name anything
I feel no call

Imagining these proud spirits
Their space without shores
Trees without season
Mirrors without dust

On the edge of the ultimate country
Where the flowing river
carries off all silt
Where the bottomless mouth
swallows up all reflections

Words darken
Vision stops

Ephermeral voyager
I penetrate nothing in this land without flesh
Touch nothing in this place without walls


But these daily and prodigious
borne by the dove
by the surge of blood

Of these resurrections
drawn from the soul's waves
and the sowings of the heart

I know the vigor and the taste
I know the ardent return

Secular dawns
pull us from the swamps
Hands and voices
dislodge our tombstones
offer us breath and light
Offer openings from one day to the next
born from a loving look
sprung from a word
Light in folds of mist
Rain in our deserts

From little deaths
to brief resurrections

Hours sweep away hours
to the last recital
of the elusive secret

Translated from the French by Lynne Goodheart and Jon Wagner

(from Poèmes pour un texte, 1991)



"Mountains," "Land of Omens," "Proofs in Black and Gold," "Truth," and
"Resurrection or Resurrections"
Reprinted from Fugitive Suns: Selected Poetry, trans. by Lynne Goodhart and Jon Wagner (Los Angeles: Green Integer, 1999). Copyright ©1999 by Lynne Goodhart and Jon Wagner. Reprinted by permission of Green Integer.

"First Image of Revolt" and "Land of Dreams"
Reprinted from Selected Poems of Andrée Chedid, trans. by Judy Cochran (Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1995). Copyright ©1995 by The Edwin Mellen Press. Reprinted by permission of The Edwin Mellen Press.

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