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This article is taken from PN Review 232, Volume 43 Number 2, November - December 2016.

Bruno & the ‘Bonnefidèlien’ (i.m. Yves Bonnefoy)
, 24 June 1923 - 1 July 2016
Chris Miller
IT BEGINS WITH a French paperback bearing five identical passport-size photos, four of them tinted in different colours, of a man wearing a beret. He stares as though in trepidation towards the spine of the book, somewhat reflecting my own feelings. For this book has a most mysterious title: Du mouvement et de l’immobilité de Douve, followed by Hier Régnant Désert. The author’s name has an incantatory quality that already partakes of legend – I have been told a great deal about him, very little of which seems to me either plausible or perspicuous. He is Yves Bonnefoy, literary hero and friend to that oracular figure of my undergraduate days, Bruno Tolentino. Bruno then loomed over my life like a literary gatekeeper, personally acquainted with authors who were merely names to me (Yourcenar, Bandeira, Meireles) and his recommendations carried weight. So, in the middle of the winter of 1977, I sat down to this little Poésie Gallimard edition and the Mercure de France volume of L’Improbable, with its classicising font and ineffably French soft cover. Here was an adventure that stood outside any of my previous experience. Bonnefoy’s prose was distinctly at odds with the linguistic school that had, till then, been my modern philosophical pabulum. And his poetry involved quite unprecedented arcana. Douve was not evidently about anything. It began with the destruction of something like a woman, then moved into a realm of nature infused with eschatological mythology, entered (as I later found out) a locus of Bonnefoy’s private mythology, the Orangerie, spoke simultaneously of justice and of mystical love, and ...


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