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Poetry and War: Readings from Feuillets D’Hypnos by René Char

May 3, 2023 · 4:30 pm6:00 pm · Chancellor Green Rotunda

Humanities Council; Department of Comparative Literature; Department of French and Italian; Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication

Please join us for a reading of selections from René Char’s journal of the French Resistance, Feuillets d’Hypnos/ Leaves of Hypnos, in translations produced by students, graduate students, and guests. The program is the culminating event in Humanistic Studies 423, a semester-long course taught by Sandra Bermann that has studied the poetry of René Char in its historical context as well as in its global afterlife in translation.

Written in violent times and moments of deep introspection, Feuillets d’Hypnos/Leaves of Hypnos is a collection of 237 short prose poems of unusual complexity and ongoing inspiration. Widely read since its initial publication by Albert Camus in 1946, it has been translated into more than 30 languages in varied historical and temporal contexts.

The study of the text and its many translations has engaged students in readings from Princeton’s recently acquired René Char archive, housed in Special Collections. Thanks to a Magic Grant from the Council of the Humanities and the generous collaboration of the poet’s widow, Marie-Claude Char, the students also traveled to France to visit libraries, art museums, and sites related to Char’s role in the Resistance, including his home in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and his wartime headquarters in the village of Céreste. All provided insights into this text from the French Resistance—and into poetry’s power to cross time and place through the power of translation. Throughout the term, students and colleagues created some exciting new translations of the poetic work. This presentation, in which Marie-Claude Char will be a reader, shares this work with the public.

The event is in English, French, and various languages.
The production is directed by Florent Masse.

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