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This article is taken from PN Review 226, Volume 42 Number 2, November - December 2015.

(tr. John Naughton) The Tombs of Ravenna Yves Bonnefoy
Translator’s Preface

Widely regarded as the most important French poet of the post-war era and as one of the most significant European writers of the past sixty years, Yves Bonnefoy came to prominence in the early 1950s with the publication of his first major book of poetry, Du mouvement et de l’immobilité de Douve (1953) and with his essay Les Tombeaux de Ravenne, also published in 1953, as ‘notes d’un voyage’ by the review Lettres nouvelles, no. 3. In it, Bonnefoy gives expression to ideas and values he will pursue with astonishing consistency, and in a dazzling variety of contexts, throughout his entire career.


I
A great many philosophers have sought to deal with death, but I cannot think of any who have considered sepulchres. The mind that reflects upon being, but rarely upon stone, has turned away from these particular stones, which are thus twice consigned to oblivion.

And yet there is a rigorous art of sepulture from Egypt to Ravenna and to our own day that has been a constant human preoccupation. In entire civilizations, there is a perfecting of sepulture, and everything that is perfect deserves a place in our reflections. Why this silence with regard to tombs? Those who philosophize about death and who are thought of as audacious never manage to connect with them. I doubt that a thought can be considered truly valid if it stops when it would be logical for it to press on and when this pursuit would respond to our deepest ...


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