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This review is taken from PN Review 160, Volume 31 Number 2, November - December 2004.

SECRETS AND STATEMENTS JEAN CASSOU, 33 Sonnets of the Resistance, translated by Timothy Adès, introduction by Alistair Elliot (with the original introductory essay of Louis Aragon) (Arc Visible Poets) £8.95
JACQUES PRÉVERT, Selected Poems, translated by Sarah Lawson (Hearing Eye) £8.95
OLAV H. HAUGE, Leaf-Huts and Snow-Houses, translated by Robin Fulton (Anvil) £9.95

It seems strange that a figure of the stature of Jean Cassou should enjoy such a secure reputation in France, and here suffer almost total neglect. Cultural insularity? Or a talent too indigenous for export? Something of both perhaps, but a curious outcome, given the way Cassou was in close touch with almost all of the significant post-war writers in Europe during the last forty years of his long life (1897-1986). By virtue of his position as a museum director - Cassou was Conservateur en chef in charge of the Musée d'Art Moderne from 1945 to 1965 - he was of course at the very centre of Parisian intellectual life, and as such inevitably something of an ambassador, though with France and French literature as the primary point of reference. Of Cassou's great practical and administrative skills there can be no doubt; but it is his creativity which will most matter to posterity. For the fullest picture of an exceptional artistic life there is really no substitute for the splendid Un Musée Imaginé, the lavishly illustrated catalogue published in 1995 on the occasion of a large Bibliothèque Nationale/Centre Pompidou exhibition; but the ever-enterprising Arc imprint has at least opened up a small corner of a hitherto closed book.

Over a long writing career Cassou published several novels, but the work for which he is still best known in France was published clandestinely under a pseudonym during the Occupation by the Editions de Minuit: 33 Sonnets composés au ...


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