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This article is taken from PN Review 224, Volume 41 Number 6, July - August 2015.

Losers All Ricardo Nirenberg
May 1982: we were driving from Williamstown, Massachusetts, to Albany, New York. I was sitting in the back, and in the front passenger seat was the French poet Yves Bonnefoy, who had been reading at Williams College earlier that day. The laboured r’s of the word terre, earth, central and frequent in his poems, were still ringing in my ears, so much so that I felt like the old Victor Hugo who, so it is said, was always telling his visitors, ‘La terre m’appelle’, the earth is beckoning to me. While we travelled on Route 2, a winding mountain road, my eye would catch fugitive flashes of yellow and white from the wildflowers sprouting on the Berkshires rock. The conversation having turned on the events of the Falklands War, Bonnefoy jokingly suggested that a peaceful solution could still be achieved by returning the islands to the French, who had discovered them and named them Îles Malouines in honor of Saint Malo. I lamented the fate of those young, ill-trained Argentine conscripts who would have to confront the professional troops of the UK, and Bonnefoy shook his head: ‘Oui. Quel triste supplément au voyage de Bougainville.’ It took me a while to realise that his reply was a witty allusion to Diderot’s philosophic dialogues based on the account of Bougainville, the explorer who first settled the Malouines.

I think we were out of the mountains and already in New York State when Bonnefoy said he thought it was a very good move on my part to have left ...


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