"This is a book just the way I don't like them," the father of French Symbolism, Stephane Mallarme, informs the reader in his preface to Divagations: "scattered and with no architecture." On the heels of this caveat, Mallarme'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 Mallarme captured the tone and very feel of fin-de-siecle Paris, he went on to captivate the minds of the greatest writers of the twentieth century--from Valery 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 Mallarme 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, Mallarme 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.
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.
Autobiography Preface Anecdotes or Poems The Phenomenon of the Future Autumn Lament Winter Shudder The Demon of Analogy Poor Pale Child The Pipe An Interrupted Performance Reminiscence The Fairground Declaration The White Waterlily A Man of the Cloth Glory Conflict Volumes on My Divan Long Ago, in the Margins of a Copy of Baudelaire Capsule Sketches and Full-Length Portraits Piece: A Brief Summary of Vathek Villiers de l'Isle-Adam Verlaine Arthur Rimbaud Laurent Tailhade Beckford Tennyson Viewed from Here Theodore de Banville Edgar Poe Whistler Edouard Manet Berthe Morisot Richard Wagner Richard Wagner: The Reverie of a French Poet Scribbled at the Theater Scribbled at the Theater Hamlet Ballets Another Study of Dance: The Fundamentals of Ballet "The Only One Would Have To Be as Fluid as the Sorcerer" Mimesis Of Genre and the Moderns Parenthesis Stages and Pages Solemnity Music and Letters Music and Letters Crisis of Verse Crisis of Verse About the Book Restricted Action Displays The Book as Spiritual Instrument The Mystery in Letters Services Sacred Pleasure Catholicism The Same Important Miscellaneous News Briefs Gold Accusation Cloisters Magic Bucolic Solitude Confrontation The Court Safeguard Mallarme's Bibliography Translator's Note