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This review is taken from PN Review 235, Volume 43 Number 5, May - June 2017.

Cover of Poems, translated by Anthony Costello, Anthony Howell & Anita Marsh
Ian BrintonThe Found Domaine Alain-Fournier’s Poems, translated by Anthony Costello,
Anthony Howell & Anita Marsh
(Carcanet, 2016) £9.99

‘On the Path Which Loses Itself’ (‘Dans le Chemin Qui S’Enfonce…’) is the substantial final poem in this short collection and it presents the reader with a sense of loss as an inescapable function of passing time:

On the path which loses itself at the farm
To sunlight stained with shade, between two hedges
Where the hens go in and then come out again –

The regions of rural landscape which haunt the much-neglected poetry of Alain-Fournier possess a sense of being fashioned out of memory and desire. The recollection of the young poet’s brief meeting with Yvonne de Quiévrecourt threads its way down the years until the desire for renewal lead in 1913 to the publication of the autobiographical Le Grand Meaulnes. The power of enchantment seems intricately woven to a sense of distance and the half glimpses the poet sees of a world gone by remind one of that fragile reality Edward Thomas sought along a path he had to discover ‘By half-gaps that were stiles once in the hedge’.  

In his introduction to this welcome volume of translations taken from the short 1924 French collection Miracles, Anthony Costello refers to a fluidity of movement: reflection and reminiscence, a past brought to the present. ‘The Griefs of Summer’ (‘Tristesses d’Été’) evokes the childhood world of a brother and sister listening to their mother playing a piano. Recalling the times when the children would sit on the stone steps outside the house in Epineuil, Fournier glimpses a ‘Sunlit ...
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