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This article is taken from PN Review 182, Volume 34 Number 6, July - August 2008.

Ocean / Emotion (translated by Marilyn Hacker) Marie Étienne

Translated by Marilyn Hacker

This is the opening sequence of Marie Étienne's Roi des cent cavaliers (published in France by Flammarion in 2002); The book exists in the territory Étienne has created between poetry and prose, with all of the poem's compression and making full use of its fertile paradoxes. It pivots on two numbers: fourteen, since each individual poem is a 'prose (or prose-poem) sonnet', each of whose lines is a discrete sentence, and ten, along with its multiple, 100, as each sequence or 'chapter' is composed of ten such sonnets; the book as a whole, with its (numbered) titles and annotations included, comprises 100 sections. The text is porous: there are collagings or interpellations of Tsvetaeva, Eliot, Tristan Tzara and others: Marina Tsvetaeva's voice, or Étienne's recreation of it, alternates with the narrator's in this opening sequence. The book as a whole reflects, as in a mosaic of shattered mirrors, many of the writer's ongoing preoccupations: the potentially theatrical nature of writing on the page; the simultaneous construction / deconstruction of narrative; gender; the juxtaposition of Orient and Occident; an eroticism that is at once physical and cerebral; the extension of the limits of genre (poetry / prose/ dramatic writing); an interpenetration of the quotidian and the foreign, in which the most 'exotic' journeys become ordinary, and the most ordinary displacements partake of the disquieting and the strange.

MARILYN HACKER

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