Divagations: the author's 1897 arrangement ; together with "Autobiography" and "Music and letters"

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Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Mar 15, 2007 - Literary Criticism - 302 pages
3 Reviews

"This is a book just the way I don't like them," the father of French Symbolism, Stphane Mallarm, informs the reader in his preface to Divagations: "scattered and with no architecture." On the heels of this caveat, Mallarm's diverting, discursive, and gorgeously disordered 1897 masterpiece tumbles forth--and proves itself to be just the sort of book his readers like most.

The salmagundi of prose poems, prose-poetic musings, criticism, and reflections that is Divagations has long been considered a treasure trove by students of aesthetics and modern poetry. If Mallarm captured the tone and very feel of fin-de-sicle Paris, he went on to captivate the minds of the greatest writers of the twentieth century--from Valry and Eliot to Paul de Man and Jacques Derrida. This was the only book of prose he published in his lifetime and, in a new translation by Barbara Johnson, is now available for the first time in English as Mallarm arranged it. The result is an entrancing work through which a notoriously difficult-to-translate voice shines in all of its languor and musicality.

Whether contemplating the poetry of Tennyson, the possibilities of language, a masturbating priest, or the transporting power of dance, Mallarm remains a fascinating companion--charming, opinionated, and pedantic by turns. As an expression of the Symbolist movement and as a contribution to literary studies, Divagations is vitally important. But it is also, in Johnson's masterful translation, endlessly mesmerizing.

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Review: Divagations

User Review  - Daniel Ramírez Martins - Goodreads

Mallarmé shows a huge revolution on his critical prose. When I read this book, I just can't believe he was born in the 20th century. He totally shows a new spirit of modernity. This amazing book also helps a lot to understand many of his works in poetry. Read full review

Review: Divagations

User Review  - david-baptiste - Goodreads

Mallarme's prose is very beuatiful--if one is able to follow through with attention he leads one to a better understanding not only of his own poems but of a great deal of poetry qua poetry thisis ... Read full review

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About the author (2007)

Stephane Mallarme, 1842 - 1898 French poet Stephane Mallarme was born in Paris. His father and grandfather expected him to follow in the family tradition of French civil service but he didn't do well in school. Mallarme began writing at a young age under the influence of Charles Baudelaire. After Mallarme left school, he went to England and while there he got married. He was a schoolteacher from 1864 until his retirement in 1893. His first poems started appearing in magazines during the 1860's. He wrote his first important poem "L'Azur" and it was published when he was twenty-four years old. His most famous work is "L'Apres-Midi D'un Faune" (1865), and was inspired by Debussy's tone poem of the same name (1894) and illustrated by the famous painter Manet. Some of his other notable works are "Herodiade" (1896), and "Toast Funebre," which was written in memory of the author Theopile Gautier. Mallarme spent his life putting his literary theories into practice by writing his Grand oeuvre (Great Work). On September 9, 1898, Mallarme died without completing this work. His experimental poem "Un Coup De Des" was published posthumously in 1914.

Barbara Johnson, who teaches in the Departments of English and Comparative Literature at Harvard University, has recently been named the Frederic Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society. She is the author of "The Critical Difference, A World of Difference", and "The Wake of Deconstruction".

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