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This report is taken from PN Review 256, Volume 47 Number 2, November - December 2020.

Claude Vigée at 100 Anthony Rudolf
Claude Vigée achieves his hundredth birthday on January 3, 2021. He is the senior French poet, followed by Philippe Jaccottet (95) and Michel Deguy (90). He is also the senior Jewish poet, followed by Edward Field (96), Gerald Stern (95), Stanley Moss (95) and Nathaniel Tarn (92), all in the USA, and Natan Zach in Israel, who will be 90 in December. I have the privilege of being Claude’s main translator and brought out two books at Menard Press as well as his previously unpublished translation of Eliot’s Four Quartets. Along with Tarn and Zach, he is one of the few survivors of my own early and stumbling days as a poet and translator. I first met him in 1969, thanks to Yves Bonnefoy’s address book. Claude was then living in Jerusalem, where from 1960 he served for many years as head of Comparative Literature at the Hebrew University, after chairing the department of European literature at Brandeis University for more than ten years.  

Born Claude Strauss in Bischwiller, a large village near Strasbourg, he is the last living speaker of Judeo-Alsatian or Western Yiddish and the last survivor of the Jewish Resistance centred on Toulouse, which was independent of Gaullist and Communist resistance networks, for ideological and other reasons. “Vigée” was his nom de guerre: “Alive I am”. Not being a foreign-born Jew, he could travel around freely after the racial laws were imposed in 1940, recruiting people and serving as a messenger between resistance movements. Eventually, inevitably, he was blacklisted and had to go ...


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