March 19, 2013

Marcel and Gabriel Piqueray

Marcel and Gabriel Piqueray [Belgium]
1920-1997 / 1920-1992

The twin brothers, Marcel and Gabriel Piqueray were born on March 2, 1920, a signed all of their work under the joint signature. However, as critic Philippe Dewolf has noted, that “didn’t mean that they would write in similar styles. Instead, it led to both great complicities and violent disagreements, in speech and in writing. But, as in a well regulated duel, the brothers stopped at the first drop of blood.” Yet as Marcel explained in 1944, they names had become inseparable: “one signature, one station signal, as they say on radio; one overall signal for the Piquerist state of mind.
     The twins’ paternal grandfather, George Piqueray, had been a member of La Jeune Belgique (the young Belgians) and was a friend to Verhaeren, Maeterlinck and Van Lerberghe. At the age of seven, the young boys discovered the music of Maurice Ravel and jazz, which led to a lifelong involvement with both kinds of music.
     The brothers began writing shortly after meeting Marcel Lecomte who taught at the Athénée royal d’Etterbeck, where the brothers became students. He was to encourage them to read Franz Kafka and Sigmund Freud, while connecting them with Belgian surrealism and introducing them to Paul Colinet with whom they published Bruno Capacci, thirty reproductions of paintings in 1946.
     But the brothers had already established their angst-filled, fantastical, and humorous style in their first collection, Au-delà des gestes in 1941. Colinet described their work as “demanding exercises in slow reading,” their often banal descriptions revealing universal themes. Robert Archambeau and Jean-Luc Garneau have translated this work into English, which is forthcoming by Green Integer.
     The Piquerays also were co-directors of Phantomas (1953-1980), which presented the work of several Belgian and other surrealists.
     The brothers continued writing throughout the 1940s and into the 1980s with many of their works being reprinted. Gabriel’ died in 1992, with Marcel following him five years later.


Au-delà des gestes (1941); Les Poudres lourdes (Paris: Fontaine, 1946); Een lovely Bajou (La Louvière: Daily-Bul, 1966); White canetons (Phantomas 89, 1969); Die Damen (La Louvière: Daily-Bul, 1975); Monument Tobacco, Abécédaire (with drawings by Pierre Alechinsky) (Paris: Yves Rivière, 1978); Au-delà des gestes et autres textes (Paris/Bruxelles: Argon/Librairie La Proue, 1980)/reprinted with a preface by Luc Rémy, with an introduction by Philippe Dewolf (Bruxelles: Labor, 1993); Conquantenair Park 1925-1940 (with Serge Vandercam) (La Louvière: Daily-Bul, 1986)

The Raft of the Medusa
                                       For Geneviève, for Nathalie, for Jacques

    I speak of the folding, Y-shaped cane, a tool often used by hunters and horse-racing regulars—the former to make their aim more deadly, the latter as a portable, revolving chair, to follow more easily the movements of their circling horses.
    They say that Formality, everywhere, uses his all the time, being so stunned and so breathless at the merest suggestion of the chanciness of life.

—Translated from the French by Robert Archambeau and Jean-Luc Garneau


   Snaking up from the basket, the rubber hose stops level with the top of stone bench.
   There is very little open space on the bench between the seated King and Queen.
   Suddenly Iris pops the door open, waving with her gloved right hand in the kind of gesture that says: “Come on, come on, I’m waiting for you.”
     Digitale gets up, walks over to the door that Iris has now snapped shut behind herself. Just as Digitale is about to pen it, she catches the murmur of wind in the grove’s distant tree tops. Pausing, she cranes her neck, looking toward the pond.
    Off in the distance, bison hulk toward the train station. Instinctively, they tread the banks, avoiding the railroad tracks.
    Digitale sets out along the high, wisteria-draped wall, where woolly, emerald vines droop from old rusty nails.
    She savors the perfumed evening air, stopping, brow furrowed, to listen to the strange sound made by what must be something falling feely down through the open space above. She lifts her face toward the sky, taking in the essence of the moment.
     The, with an offhanded certainty, she slowly wraps her fingers around the rung nearest to her hand and, without a second thought, starts to climb the ladder that soars up from the damp sand and reaches, straight and narrow, to the sky.

—Translated from the French by Robert Archambeau and Jean-Luc Garneau

Riding at Night

“Perfection?” cry the horsemen.
The mountaintops shine in the moonlight.
It’s a matter of getting there. It is also a matter of conquest.
It is also a matter of sand, of pebbles, of thistles all around.
There will always be time for analysis later. For the moment, only one thing matters: speed.
In every rider, from one dust cloud to the next, in the breast of each high-spirited steed,
    Everywhere, one urge: speed.
Under the sparking sky, under the purple mesas, hard against the rolling prairie: speed.
Faster, always faster, out to the very limits of their strength: speed.
These horsemen, in the monks’ cassocks.

—Translated from the French by Robert Archambeau and Jean-Luc Garneau

Comfortable Poem

It’s like it is with
Certain springs
(For watches
For machines
Or for parts of things,
There’s nothing for it:
If they’re too long,
It’s bad;
And if they’re too short,
It’s bad too,
I put it to you bluntly,
If I must put it that way.

—Translated from the French by Robert Archambeau and Jean-Luc Garneau

English language translation copyright ©2013 by Robert Archambeau and Jean-Luc Garneau, reprinted from the manuscript of Beyond Gestrues and Other Writings.

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