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This report is taken from PN Review 46, Volume 12 Number 2, November - December 1985.

Yves Bonnefoy Michael Edwards

The first sentence of Yves Bonnefoy's L'Arrière-pays: 'J'ai souvent éprouvé un sentiment d'inquiétude, à des carre-fours', is a magnetic opening for a story, with a masterly pause. I begin here partly from a conviction that Bonnefoy has a great gift for story. A small volume might be made of the numerous fables or 'novels' which he has in fact destroyed or abandoned but which he recounts in various places, as of the dreams that are related even in his criticism. They constitute an attractive and rather magic dimension of his work which only exists at a curious distance, except that in a way his poetry too brims with story, and in its entirety tells a single tale. That opening also takes the reader abruptly into the idea of travel, as it evokes a recurring experience of finding oneself, though not exactly in Dante's terms, nel mezzo del cammin, and poetry for Bonnefoy is intimately connected with voyage. The book that follows is his most engaging discussion of his beliefs and of his desire for poetry (as well as being where his influence on my own writing began), and indeed a very unusual and yet quite central work - a kind of art book into the bargain, with its many reproductions and photographs - which it is surprising not to see translated into English.

The 'disquiet' arises from the intuition, at cross-roads, of an 'autre pays . . . d'essence plus haute', waiting somewhere along 'la route que ...


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