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Divagations

Divagations

Stéphane Mallarmé

Translated by Barbara Johnson

ISBN 9780674032408

Publication date: 06/15/2009

"This is a book just the way I don't like them," the father of French Symbolism, Stéphane Mallarmé, informs the reader in his preface to Divagations: "scattered and with no architecture." On the heels of this caveat, Mallarmé'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 Mallarmé captured the tone and very feel of fin-de-siècle Paris, he went on to captivate the minds of the greatest writers of the twentieth century--from Valéry 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 Mallarmé 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, Mallarmé 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.

Praise

  • The translation is outstanding, and the collection (arranged according to the French writer's own plan) makes available in English a much fuller sample of Mallarmé's remarkable and influential prose writings than was previously available. This book makes a major contribution to modern literary studies and aesthetics.

    —Kevin McLaughlin, Brown University

Author

  • Barbara Johnson taught in the departments of English and Comparative Literature at Harvard University and was 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.

Book Details

  • 312 pages
  • 5-1/8 x 7-15/16 inches
  • Belknap Press

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