The Random House Book of 20th Century French Poetry

ISBN: 0394717481
ISBN 13: 9780394717487
By: Paul Auster

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Anthology Antologias Currently Reading Franceses French Poesia Poetry Poetry And Literature To Read Translation

Reader's Thoughts


Excellent survey of French poets and their poems in one nice edition. I especially like it for the Surrealists - Breton, Soupault, etc. Paul Auster did a great editing job on this particular book.


An amazing collection of 20th century French poetry edited by the profoundly knowledgeable Paul Auster. This kind of compendium isnt something you ever finish reading, but rather a reference to be used to further investigate various movements or epics of French contemporary poetry. I came to this volume already pretty well versed in the majority of Surrealist authors, but it thankfully led me to the likes of Saint John-Pearse, Reverdy, and Ponge. For that, I hold this collection forever in high esteem.

Jeff Harrington

One of my main sources for titles of my pieces!


One of my favorite re-reads.


side-by-side edition of 47 20th c. French poets -- 663 pages of pleasure not only for the French, but the multitude of venerable British and American poets who make their mark. I like the variety of voices which range from translations of poets from the turn of the century to the later years of the 20th century.I'm using many of the poems for a course I'm teaching on French poetry for the non-fluent French student.Having the side-by-side edition is a distinct asset, to point out the form and sounds of the original language.


This book is my plastic jesus.


Ok. So. Finished this today, probably have been reading it almost daily for maybe a month? Maybe longer. Probably a little longer. I read poetry anthologies voraciously--I like big ones that I can dip in and out of like a devotional, big ones that I have to lay on my bed to comfortably read. I am also an utter devotée of French poetry. This anthology, really, does cover a necessary cross section of the 20th Century. I would, of course, ask for more, but in his introduciton, Auster notes that he felt it better to have larger selections of each poet than just one or two pages for a larger variety. For the poets one enjoys, this becomes a blessing. For the poets one is less enthusiastic about... well, obviously one knows how that goes. Fortunately for me at least, there was rarely work I didn't like (though, even with the context of the man aside, I still have a hard time giving a shit about anything Breton has ever done). That being said, this filled in some holes for me, offered some earlier poets that I had heard mention of yet not encountered. One cannot assume to be familiar with a poet based on excerpts from an anthology, but this book has certainly provided me with an introduction to a poet should I choose to read more, which I feel like is the most successful opportunities this kind of work offers.Another plus is that this anthology contains translations not available anywhere else, or only available in lit journals and long out of print small press editions, so the collecting factor is handy. My favorite French poetry basically sits between the 60s and 80s: du Bouchet, Giroux, Dupin, Albiach, Royet-Journaud, Daive, Veinstein, etc..., and there's an abundance of that present, including work not available in English anywhere else. Which is great! But, it is with these poets that my major caveat with the volume falls.In Lavish Absence: Recalling and Rereading Edmond Jab S, Rosmarie Waldrop makes note of the fact that she had to argue with many publishers to maintain the spacing in Jabes' work. The publishers argued that the extra blank space was unnecessary because it didn't change the meaning. Waldrop, understanding Jabes poetry far more than these publishers, argued that the spacing changes the rhythm, which does indeed change the meaning. In this volume, any spatial use of the page is eradicated down to a single space in between lines. This amounts to monumental differences in the poetry of the likes of Anne-Marie Albiach & Andre du Bouchet--and probably even more beyond that which I don't have alternate English translations or original French texts to check. This is ultimately problematic for me, as the space in this poetry is as much a part of what's happening as the words used. As such, I can't say this is perfect, or even essential, as the negation of space strikes me as a total exercise in a refusal to understand. Other than that though, I'd say this book is worth it.


The only good thing Paul Auster has ever done.


This is a crucial book, one that I return to all the time. It's not just the sparkling selection (editor Paul Auster made just the right choices), it's the translations themselves. I was at the launch party for this book, where some of the translators read from their work in the book, and I remember being impressed and delighted. At the time, I couldn't afford the book. Later, found a hardcover at half-price somewhere (probably Strand). The Micheaux (translation by Armand Schwerner) poems stand out, as well as Cendrars (Padgett).


"Et comme l'Êsperance est violente."

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