from The Violet Blood of the Amethyst

An exceptionally unhappy heart.

The dynamic force of life bore me off.

The uncertainties of the future.

Childhood images to specify.

Violent acts to exert, as if to supplant oneself.

A sexual organ to satisfy amid rage and rashness.

Search for a base, stability, a main line, confidence.

Disturb myself, renounce myself, to become myself.

Demand from myself, not suit myself.

Clear away the years—become.

*

Empty, melancholy streets where we were conflict.

*

Agreements are brief accidental collusions of a mosaic in composition.

*

Not to define me, but rather to conceal me with the prospect of a resemblance that would have your sonorities.

To become an accomplished woman; in that way, be incorporated on the same scale as the other part of the world.

Lingerie, dresses, makeup—the metamorphosis lightly touches the soul; I meet you in order to misjudge you better.

We advance with difficulty among the chaotic twists and turns of Sex—if this martyrdom escapes you, what is more natural?

You are steadiness for the wages of my agonizing ever-changing nature.

*

 I do not occupy the whole space of my potential.

*

That another person is a metaphysical sign for me matters to me.

*

Man knew too many things about the world to be subjected by it.

His science learned what distance is, in other words deliverance

the irrepressible expansion of what is free

thus—SOLITUDE.

*

What do we learn? That clarity is abstraction.

I head toward the emptiness of a myself who does not know how to renounce.

*

In that nice calm room in London, where nights welcomed us in as clandestine passengers—barefoot and drolly dressed in a long red-striped shirt, you were indestructible youthfulness.

Your lighthearted voice, not too perfectly in tune, singing bits of a poem by whom you had no idea and evoking the cold streets of the city where lovers would hug each other in the evenings.

The demons of your childhood were still visible in each movement of your hands, in each of your intonations.

*

Silvery powder of the white rose.

Like gazing, fragrance is language.

I give to the secret flower the name of my most unruly evanescences.

It is she and I.

The next morning—petals scattered on the ground.

So many intimate things have just vanished forever.

*

Night, confinement.

I would pace up and down over my questionings, my predictions, my potential accomplishments.

I would turn myself into an ongoing dream.

I was the solitude of apprenticeship.

Explore your infinite night.

*

One heading towards the other.

Tension accentuated by expectation.

Coming together again increases anxiety tenfold.

The dazzling second when they spot each other again.

 

 

Le Sang violet de l’améthyste (extraits)

 

Exceptionnellement malheureux par le cœur.

La force dynamique de la vie m’emportait.

Les incertitudes de l’avenir.

Images de l’enfance à concrétiser.

Violences à exercer, comme pour se supplanter soi-même.

Sexe à contenter dans la rage et l’inconscience.

Recherche d’une assise, d’une stabilité, d’un axe, d’une confiance.

Me troubler, me renoncer pour devenir moi.

M’exiger, ne pas me convenir.

Écouler les années — devenir.

*

Rues mélancoliques et vides où nous étions conflit.

*

Les concordances sont de brèves collusions accidentelles d’une mosaïque en composition.

*

Non me définir, mais me dissimuler en vue d’une ressemblance qui aurait tes sonorités.

Devenir femme accomplie ; de la sorte être incorporé à la mesure de l’autre partie du monde.

Linge intime, robes, maquillage — la métamorphose effleure l’âme ; je te rejoins pour te mieux méconnaître.

Nous progressons péniblement dans le chaos des torsions du Sexe — que ce martyre t’échappe, quoi de plus naturel ?

Tu es fixité pour salaire de mon angoissante mouvance.

*

Je n’occupe pas la totalité de l’espace de mes possibles.

*

Il m’importe qu’autrui me soit signe métaphysique.

*

L’homme savait sur le monde trop de choses pour lui être soumis.

Sa science s’exerçait à la distance, autrement dit à la délivrance

à l’irrépressible expansion du libre

donc — à la SOLITUDE.

*

Qu’apprend-on ? Que la clarté est abstraction.

Je marche vers le vide d’un moi-même qui ne sait pas renoncer.

*

Dans cette belle chambre calme de Londres, où les nuits nous recevaient en passagers clandestins — drolatiquement vêtue d’une longue chemise à rayures rouges, pieds nus, tu étais l’indéfectible jeunesse.

Ta voix légère, point trop juste, chantant par bribes un poème de tu ne savais qui, évoquant les rues froides de la ville où, le soir, s’enlaçaient des amoureux.

Les démons de ton enfance étaient encore présents dans chacun de tes gestes, chacune de tes intonations.

*

Poudre argentée de la rose blanche.

Comme le regard, le parfum est langage.

Je donne à la fleur secrète le nom de mes évanescences les plus indisciplinées.

Elle est elle et moi.

Le lendemain matin — pétales éparpillés sur le sol.

Tant de choses intimes viennent de disparaître à jamais.

*

Nuit, confinement.

J’arpentais mes questionnements, mes projections, mes éventuels accomplissements.

Je me faisais rêve existant.

J’étais solitude de l’apprentissage.

Explore ta nuit indéfinie.

*

L’un vers l’autre.

Tension accentuée des attentes.

Le rapprochement n’est qu’angoisse décuplée.

Aveuglante, la seconde du revoir.

 

—Louis Calaferte, Le Sang violet de l’améthyste, ©Éditions Gallimard, 1998.

 

 

Louis Calaferte (1928-1994) was one of most prolific and controversial French writers of the twentieth century. Consisting of over ninety titles, his published oeuvre includes some forty poetry collections, six volumes of collected plays, an extraordinary rich series of notebooks, several books of short prose, and much-debated novels such as Requiem des innocents (1952), Septentrion (1963), or La Mécanique des femmes (1992)—the latter published in an English translation at Northwestern University Press as The Way It Works with Women. Drafted at the very end of his life and issued posthumously, Le Sang violet de l’améthyste (1998) offers an essential key to the unity of this multifarious body of work. An interconnected sequence of poems, short prose narratives, quotations, and aphorisms, the book brings out all his characteristic themes and displays his various writing styles.

John Taylor is the author of the three-volume Paths to Contemporary French Literature and Into the Heart of European Poetry—all four books published by Transaction. He has also written seven books of stories, short prose, and poetry, the latest of which are If Night is Falling (Bitter Oleander Press) and Now the Summer Came to Pass (Xenos Books). He writes the “Poetry Today” column in the Antioch Review and contributes regularly to the Times Literary Supplement. He has recently translated books by Pierre-Albert Jourdan, Philippe Jaccottet, and Jacques Dupin. In 2011, he won a grant from the Sonia Raiziss Charitable Foundation to translate Louis Calaferte’s Le Sang violet de l’améthyste.

 

 

Issue #18 December 2012
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