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The Chimeras

Gerard de Nerval

Translated by Peter Jay

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Imprint: Anvil Press Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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  • Gérard de Nerval’s sonnets Les Chimères were first published as a group in 1854, a year before his suicide at the age of 46. The poems were nearly a dozen years in the making, and their genius was slow to be accepted. Now they are generally regarded as a key work in nineteenth-century poetry, linking romanticism and symbolism. The tributes to Nerval come from writers as different as Proust, Arthur Symons and T.S. Eliot, who quoted him in the last lines of The Waste Land.

    This edition presents the poems in French with a facing translation which, while aiming at an exacting verbal fidelity, is intended to be read as a poetic sequence in English. Both Richard Holmes, who contributes an essay on Nerval’s symbolic method, and Peter Jay, who responds with an account of the translation problems, consider that for all their renowned obscurity, the poems are direct and enormously moving. They believe that the spiritual quest at the heart of these twelve sonnets is as vital as ever.

    Gerard de Nerval
    Gérard de Nerval (1808–1855) established his literary reputation with a translation, admired by the author, of Goethe’s Faust . He lost his inheritance in an ill-considered magazine publishing venture. His travels resulted in works such as Le Voyage en Orient ; the last years of his life produced the stories and ... read more
    Peter Jay
    Peter Jay (b. 1945) read Classics and English at Oxford. Among his books are a collection of poems Shifting Frontiers, the Penguin Classic The Greek Anthology, and several translations including Gérard de Nerval’s Chimeras, János Pilinszky’s Crater and the novel Conversations with Sheryl Sutton (with Éva Major) and ... read more
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