"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, April 24, 2011

"The Form of a City Changes Faster, Alas, Than The Human Heart" by Jacques Roubaud

By reading these Paris city poems by Jacques Roubaud, one can sense that there is an "Oulipo" stance with its wit and presence. But then again, this is probably one of the best 'poetic' books on Paris. In fact it reads like a map - and for some reason I am drawn to the visual aspect of Paris and how its streets are placed in sections and how it is attached to the big boulevards.

There is a dual aspect to these poems. One is the importance of a language that investigates Paris, but also it is an accurate portrait of a city. So what we have here is Paris as it is laid out by Roubaud's wit and observation. And it goes back to Baudelaire, Queneau, and various French Surrealist poets, with respect to how writing is very much a form itself -and that form represents Paris itself. So not a critique on other writings on Paris, but a nod and a tip to the hat to those who came before and was seduced by Paris' presence.

My only complaint about this book is that it isn't bilingual, but then again I am sure there were budget considerations. And the translation by Keith and Rosmarie Waldrop is pretty readable and fun - and fun is a big part of Roubaud's work.

1 comment:

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