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This review is taken from PN Review 50, Volume 12 Number 6, July - August 1986.

IN GOOD FAITH Things dying things newborn: selected poems of Yves Bonnefoy, translated by Anthony Rudolf, with wood engravings by Willow Winston (The Menard Press) £4.00 pb.

Yves Bonnefoy stands more and more clearly revealed as the finest French poet of his generation, and one of the most gifted of all post-war writers. Nearly forty years have passed since Sartre, waging war on 'bad faith' in What is Literature?, playfully pointed out that it would be an irony indeed if Bonnefoy were to be found guilty of succumbing to such a charge. In the event, and with little to put one's trust in in the interim, there cannot be any doubt that here, at least, we have a poet worthy to be spoken of in the same breath as those Bonnefoy most admires in his own tradition - Rimbaud, for example - and even perhaps those outside it, like Yeats and Shakespeare, whom he treats as permanent points of reference by which to measure any subsequent achievement.

Things dying things newborn takes its title, very appropriately in the circumstances, not from Bonnefoy himself but from The Winter's Tale - one of the seven Shakespeare plays that in this poet's French translations, guarantee him a permanent place in literary history irrespective of his poetry. Since Anthony Rudolf has extensively revised his translations of twenty years ago, the allusion seems especially apt. More importantly, however, the title serves to identify the dynamic that is at the heart of all Bonnefoy's manifold enterprises, from the Hegel quotation which serves as epigraph to his first and most famous collection (Of the Motion and Immobility of Douve, 1953) to ...


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