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This review is taken from PN Review 208, Volume 39 Number 2, November - December 2012.

Golden Leaves yves bonnefoy, The Arrière-Pays, translated by Stephen Romer (Seagull Books) £16

Certain works make an apparently disproportionate mark; they fall into your life like meteors. Barely articulated feelings are revealed in that otherworldly glow as central. Creative feelings as intimate as a childhood crush on some streamlined Corgi may suddenly find their confirmation. Their imagery can dictate the aspirations of a lifetime. To them one returns like a pilgrim. One such work is Bonnefoy's L'Arrière-Pays, long a part of my inner life. Some major literary works first reached me as endnotes to The Waste Land; the illustrations of L'Arrière-Pays have similarly affected my relation to art. The book transcends genre; as Romer says, it is 'a sustained essay on aesthetics...a spiritual biography...a belated addition to Quest literature...[and] has elements of a supernatural thriller'. Its antecedents are the illustrated works of Surrealism, above all Breton's Nadja. But it is only in Stephen Romer's admirable translation that I have been able to read it in all its coherence. Hitherto I have distractedly found in it a kind of treasury of revelations, each of which led me away from the extended syntax of Bonnefoy's prose back into the world that it so radically illuminated. Such is the nature of poetic prose: in each of Bonnefoy's superlatively modulated sentences, whole flights of insight arise. Here the nature of pastoral is suddenly revealed and transformed by an image; a ferry-journey ineluctably gives onto myth and the myth is again withdrawn; in these sentences the transformative power of metaphor is so completely enacted that by following ...


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