Saturday, October 14, 2006

Reading and Singing St-John Perse

Images a Crusoe, Op 11, by Louis Durey
Scenes d'Anabase, by Paul Bowles

Beth Anne Hatton, voice
Ishmael Wallace, piano
Vita Wallace, violin
Text read by Jee Leong Koh

Excerpts from Exile,
text read by R. Nemo Hill

Date: October 16, 2006 (Mon)
Time: 8 p.m.
Place: The Stone, 2nd St & Ave C (
Tix: $10

St-John Perse, or Alexis Leger, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1960. Born in Guadeloupe, the young Alexis felt like an exile when the family moved to France. His sequence, Pictures for Crusoe, gives voice to an old Crusoe who lives, barely, in the city and dreams of returning to his sensual island paradise.

From the section titled "The Wall":

...It is the sweat of saps in exile, the bitter oozings of plants with long pods, the acrid insinuation of fleshy mangroves, and the acid delight of a black substance within the pods.

It is the wild honey of ants in the galleries of the dead tree.

The style is a little too rhapsodic and overblown for my taste: too many exclamations of "O Despoiled!" and "Joy! O joy..." My favorite section is "The Bow" in which he conveys the pathos of aging, injects much-needed drama, and concludes that passage with an unexpected use of a recurring image:

Before the hissings of the hearth, numb beneath your flowered wrapper, you watch the soft undulating fins of the flames.--But a snapping fissures the singing darkness; it is your bow, on its nail, that has burst. And it splits along the whole length of its secret fibre, like the dead pod in the hands of the warrior tree.

(Translations by Louise Varese)

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