June 28, 2011

Louis Aragon




Louis Aragon [France]
1897-1982

Born in Paris in 1897, Aragon was raised by his mother and maternal grandmother, taught to believe the couple as his sister and foster mother. Aragon's father, Louis Andrieux, had been a senator for Forcalquier. At 30 years older than the boy's mother, Andrieux was married. Only at age 19, as he was about to leave as soldier in World War I, was he told the truth, and the fact that Andrieux would never recognize his son came later to influence Aragon's writing.

Involved with Dadaism from 1919 to 1924, Aragon became a founding member of Surrealism in 1924, writing with André Breton and Philippe Soupault under the pen-name of "Aragon."

During that same period the writer joined as "fellow traveller" the French Communits Party; he joined the party in 1927, and from 1933 on wrote for the party's newspaper, L'Humanité. He would remain a member for the rest of his life, writing several political poems. Yet Aragon remained critical of the USSR, particularly after Nikita Khrushchev faulted Joseph Stalin's "personality cult" in the 1956 20th Congress of Writers for the Defence of Culture.

In 1939 Aragon married the Russian author Elsa Triolet, sister of Mayakovsky's common-law wife, Lilya Brik. The writer had met her in 1928, and immediately became is literary muse. Together they collaborated in the left-wing French media, going underground for most of the Nazi occupation. The same year as his marriage Aragon was mobilized and awarded the military medal Croix de guerre for his bravery. After the May 1940 defeat, the couple found refuge in the Southern Zone, and, along with Robert Desnos, Paul Éluard, Jean Prévoist and Jean-Pierre Rosnay, joined the Resistance.

During the war Aragon wrote for the underground Les Éditions de Minuit, working with Elsa to set up a National Front of Writers in the South. Much of his writing during this period related to the war and the heroes he witnessed.

Throughout his life Aragon continued to be politically involved. After the death of his wife in June of 1970, Aragon announced that he was bisexual, appearing at gay pride parades in a pink convertible.

During all these years Aragon produced a remarkable series of experimental fictions, poems, and essays, including the fictions Les Aventures de Télémaque (1921), Le Libertinage (1924), Le Paysan de Paris (1926), Les Beaux Quartiers (1936), Les Communistes (6 volumes), 1949-1951 and 1966-1967, and La Semaine Sainte (1958). Among his numerous books of poetry are Feu de joie of 1919, Le Mouvement perpétuel (1926), La Grande Gaîté (1929), Le Crève-Cœur (1941), Cantique à Elsa (1942), Les Yeux d'Elsa (1942), and Le Fou d'Elsa (1963).

Louis Aragon died on December 24, 1982. He was buried in the park of Moulin de Villeneuve on his property in Saint-Arnoult-en-Eveline, next to his wife.

BOOKS OF POETRY

Le Musée Grévin (as François la Colère) (Paris: Éditions de Minuit); La rose et le réséda; Feu de joie (1919); Le Mouvement perpétuel (1926); La Grande Gaîté (1929); Persécuté persécuteur (Paris: Éditions surréalistes, 1931); Hourra l'Oural (Paris: Denoël, 1934); Le Crève-Cœur (Paris: Gallimard, 1941); Cantique à Elsa (1942); Les Yeux d'Elsa (Paris: Éditions Seghers, 1942); Brocéliande (1942); Le Musée Grevin (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1943); La Diane française (Paris: P. Seghers, 1945); En étrange pays dans mon pays lui-même (1945); Le Nouveau Crève-Cœur (Paris: Gallimard, 1948); Les yeux et la mémoire, poème (Paris: Gallimard, 1954); Le Roman inachevé (Paris: Gallimard,1956); Elsa (Paris: Gallimard, 1959); Les Poètes (Paris: Gallimard, 1960); Le Fou d'Elsa (Paris: Gallimard, 1963); Il ne m'est Paris que d'Elsa (Paris: R. Laffont, 1965); Les Chambres, poème du temps qui ne passe pas (Paris: Éditeurs français réunis, 1969); Poésies, anthlogie 1917-1960 (Paris: Gallimard, 1960)


Hymn

They restored man to the earth
They said you will eat
And you will eat
They cast the heavens to the earth
They said The gods will perish
And the gods will perish
They made a building site of the earth
They said The weather will be beautiful
And the weather will be beautiful
They opened a hole on the earth
They said The flame will burst forth
And the flame will burst forth
Speaking to the masters of the earth
They said You will give way
And you will give way
They took in their hands the earth
They said The black shall be white
And the black shall be white
Glory on the lands and the earth
To the sun of Bolshevik days
And Glory to the Bolsheviks

—Translated from the French by Mitch Abidor
(from Hourra l'Oural, 1934)



Je vais te dire un grand secret Le temps c'est toi
Le temps est femme Il a
Besoin qu'on le courtise et qu'on s'asseye
A ses pieds le temps comme une robe à défaire
Le temps comme une chevelure sans fin
Peiginée
Un miroir que le souffle embue et désembue
Le temps c'est toi qui dors à l'aube où je m'éveille
C'est toi comme un couteau traversant mon gosier
Oh que ne puis-je dire ce tourment du temps qui ne passe point
Ce tourment du temps arrêté comme le sang dans les vaisseaux bleus
Et c'est bien pire que le désir interminablement non satisfait
Que cette soif de l'œil quand tu marches dans la pièce
Et je sais qu'il ne faut pas rompre l'enchantement
Bien pire que de te sentir étrangère
Fuyante
La tête ailleurs et le cœur dans un autre siècle déjà
Mon Dieu que les mots sont lourds Il s'agit bien de cela
Mon amour au delà du plaisir mon amour hors de portée aujourd'hui de l'atteinte
Toi qui bats à ma tempe horloge
Et si tu ne respires pas j'étouffe
Et sur ma chair Hèsite et se pose ton pas

Je vais te dire un grand secret Toute parole
A ma lèvre est une pauvresse qui mendie
Une misère pour tes mains une chose qui noircit sous ton regard
Et c'est pourquoi je dis si souvent que je t'aime
Faute d'un cristal assez clair d'une phrase que tu mettrais à ton cou
Ne t'offense pas de mon parler vulgaire Il est
L'eau simple qui fait ce bruit désagréable dans le feu

Je vais te dire un grand secret Je ne sais pas
Parler du temps qui te ressemble
Je ne sais pas parler de toi je fais semblant
Comme ceux très longtemps sur le quai d'une gare
Qui agitent la main après que les trains sont partis
Et le poignet s'éteint du poids nouveau des larmes

Je vais te dire un grand secret J'ai peur de toi
Peur de ce qui t'accompagne au soir vers les fenêtres
Des gestes que tu fais des mots qu'on ne dit pas
J'ai peur du temps rapide et lent j'ai peur de toi
Je vais te dire un grand secret Ferme les portes
Il est plus facile de mourir que d'aimer
C'est pourquoi je me donne le mal de vivre
Mon amour




I'm going to tell you a great secret You are time
Time is a woman It needs
To be fawned over and bowed down to
Time like a dress to be undone
Time like endless tresses
Combed
A mirror misted and demisted by breath
You are time asleep at dawn when I rise
You're time like a knife across my gullet
O how I am unable to tell this torment of time unpassing
This torment of time halted like blood in blue vessels
Far worse than desire forever unmet
Than the thirst of the eye when you walk into the room
And my knowing not to break the spell
Far worse than feeling you a stranger
Fleeing
Your mind elsewhere and your heart already in a different century
My God how words are heavy That's what it's all about then
My love beyond pleasure my love out of reach today unattained
You swat at my clock temples
And if you fail to breathe I suffocate
And on my flesh your step waits and comes to rest

I'm going to tell you a great secret Every word
On my lips is stricken with poverty, begging
A trifle for your hands something glowing black below your stare
And this is why I say so often that I love you
For lack of a crystal clear enough of a phrase you'd place around your neck
Don't mind the baseness of my language It is
Plain water making that awful noise in the fire


I'm going to tell you a great secret I don't know how
To speak of the time you seem to be
I don't know how to speak of you I make believe
Like those who remain so long on the platform in the station
Waving their hands after the trains have left
The wrist fading out under the new weight of tears

I'm going to tell you a great secret I fear you
Fear what goes with you to the window in the evening
The gestures you make with unsaid words
I fear time rapid and slow I fear you
I'm going to tell you a great secret Close the doors
It's easier to die than to love
That's why I take such pains to go on living
My love

Translated from the French by Christophe Brunski
(from Elsa, 1959)

_______
English language copyrights (c)2011 by Mitch Abidor and Christophe Brunski.




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