By Pierre Chappuis

Translated by John Taylor

from Issue 21


beyond the Märchenbilder


Unique, ultimate, an instant, a sound, dark gleam, whole, growing.

      Ultimate, absolute, but an instant: he is embraced by the river, which he wants for himself (“mine!”), entirely (“may your breathing be mine!”), forever engulfed in its tumult.

      The sounds (“ah, the forces are everywhere unleashed against me!”), all the sounds, are blended by the scarf of the river into a single scream carried beyond itself.

      Words (“Malediction, oh my burning reason!”) and thought killed before they are born, crushed (dizziness and deafening roar) by the vise gripping him.


      Such rage, such impatience for happiness!
      Too late!

      Held up by those who have carried him back to the shore, he stumbles in the street, holding his face between his hands, walled up (his insanity) in a scream never heard.

      Do they know (and his loved ones? especially she who runs up to him?), do they know he will never return to them, now that he has become the mortal remains of himself?

      Shattered: this extreme point reached.
      Wasted, worn-out (fatality of water), vacant-minded (what do we know about that?), will he no longer even hear in the depths of his self the alarming cry “I am lost”?

Pierre Chappuis, was born in Tavannes (Canton Bern), Switzerland, in 1930. He is an essential French-language poet in a generation that includes Philippe Jaccottet, Yves Bonnefoy, André du Bouchet, Jacques Dupin, and Jacques Réda. His many published works include collections of critical essays, poetic prose, and poetry. Among his most recent books, all published by the Éditions José Corti, are Dans la foulée (2007), Comme un léger sommeil (2009), and Muettes emergences (2011). Distance aveugle (2000) and À la portée de la voix (2002), also brought out by Corti, are collections of short poetic prose. For his writing, he has won two prestigious Swiss literary prizes: the Schiller Prize in 1997 and the Grand Prix C.F. Ramuz in 2005. He lives in Neuchâtel.

John Taylor has recently translated books by Jacques Dupin (Of Flies and Monkeys, Bitter Oleander Press), Philippe Jaccottet (And, Nonetheless, Chelsea), and Pierre-Albert Jourdan (The Straw Sandals, Chelsea). His most recent collection of personal writings is If Night is Falling, published by the Bitter Oleander Press in 2012. He is also the author of the three-volume essay collection, Paths to Contemporary French Literature (Transaction), and Into the Heart of European Poetry (Transaction). Born in Des Moines in 1952, Taylor has lived in France since 1977.

Original text: Pierre Chappuis. Noir de l’été. Geneva: Éditions La Dogana, 2002.

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