Author: Harold Augenbraum

Publisher: A Penguin Classics Original

ISBN:  978-0-14-310690-6

Marcel Proust (1871-1922) from Auteuil, a western section of Paris, was known primarily as a novelist; in fact, he was known for a single work of fiction, the massive, seven volume, four thousand plus page, A la recherche du temps perdu, called by various translators, Remembrance of Things Past, or In Search of Lost Time.That Proust was a prolific poet as well is often overlooked; thus Penguin Classics’ Deluxe Edition of his Collected Poems is a major publishing event. This handsome collection of 104 poems is the mastermind of Harold Augenbraum, the executive director of the National Book Foundation and founder of the Proust Society of America, who has previously translated José Rizal and Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca for Penguin Classics.

As a young man Proust wrote both poetry and prose and even after, at the age of thirty-eight, when he concentrated upon his magnum opus, he continued to write poems, many directed at or dedicated to his wide array of friends - aristocrats, writers, musicians, and courtesans. His verse is filled with affection and laughter. As Harold Augenbraum writes in his excellent, no nonsense Introduction, “The poems were composed from when Proust was seventeen to when he was fifty .... They cover the yearnings of juvenilia, sexual longing laced with flippancy of narcissism. They continue with poems of homage, imitations and intimations of other famous poets composed with forethought and almost foreordained ..... these poems gathered together - which they were never intended to be- form an intimate portrait of a great writer of huge reputation.....” An interesting creative aside tells us that Proust did little poetic re-writing, hence what mostly we see are fresh from the poet’s pen. Here are the opening quatrains of two poems including the English translation of each.

Poem # 22: Chopin: The endnote for Poem 22 tells us among other things  that, “This poem was dedicated to the pianist Edouard Risler (1873-1929). a close friend of Reynaldo Hahn who specialized in the music of Chopin, touring Europe and playing the composer’s complete works.

Chopin, mer de soupirs, de larmes, de sanglots
Qu’un vol de papillons sans se poser traverse
Jouant sur la tristesse ou dansant sur les flots
Reve, aime souffre, crie, apaise, charme ou berce

Ocean of sighs, and just above the waves
a flight of butterflies pauses .... no passes,
circling above the melancholy sea ...
Dream, love, suffer, sleep it off!

Poem# 38: Epitaph for a Dog: The endnote identifies the proper nouns throughout the poem.

Ici repose ami le beau corps de la bete
Qui tant de mercredis et sans treve aboya
Nul n’aurait peint - Whistler - Michael-Ange ou Goya
L’horreur de l’Arrivante ayant aux pieds sa tete.

Here rests, my friend, the handsome body of the beast
That barked so many Wednesdays without cease.
No one could paint - not Whistler, Michelangelo, or Goya
The horror of a newcomer with its head near his feet.

There is much to recommend this attractive, sturdily bound paperback volume of verse from its soft aqua cover to its cream coloured pages, hand cut in the old style. Easy reading is created with each poem presented in the original French on one side and the English translation on the facing page. As well there are substantial endnotes, one for each of the 104 poems in this collection. There is a extensive bibliography  as well as biographical notes on each translator who is identified in each poem’s endnote. The poems are arranged in an order established in 1982 by Claude Francis and Fernande Gontier in their landmark Cahiers Marcel Proust.

The Collected Poems of Marcel Proust is an excellent, attractive, complete publication and priced at $26 50 it is a collector’s bargain as well.


Follow Here To Purchase The Collected Poems: A Dual-Language Edition with Parallel Text (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) (English and French Edition)

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