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14 June 1907|
|Died||19 February 1988
|French literary history|
René Char (14 June 1907 – 19 February 1988) was a 20th-century French poet and member of the French Resistance.
Char was born in L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in the Vaucluse department of France, the youngest of four children of Emile Char and Marie-Thérèse Rouget, where his father was mayor and managing director of the Vaucluse plasterworks. He spent his childhood in Névons, the substantial family home completed at his birth, then studied as a boarder at the school of Avignon and subsequently, in 1925, a student at L'École de Commerce de Marseille, where he read Plutarch, François Villon, Racine, the German Romantics, Alfred de Vigny, Gérard de Nerval and Charles Baudelaire. He was tall (1.92 m) and was an active rugby player. After briefly working at Cavaillon, in 1927 he performed his military service in the artillery in Nîmes.
Char's first book, Cloches sur le cœur was published in 1928 as a compilation of poems written between 1922 and 1926. In early 1929, he founded the journal Méridiens with André Cayatte and published three issues. In August, he sent twenty-six copies of his book Arsenal, published in Nîmes, to Paul Éluard, who in the autumn came to visit him at L'Isle sur la Sorgue. In late November, Char moved to Paris, where he met Louis Aragon, André Breton, and René Crevel, and joined the surrealists. His "Profession de foi du sujet" was published in December in the twelfth issue of La Révolution surréaliste. He remained active in the surrealist movement through the early 1930s but distanced himself gradually from the mid-1930s onward. Throughout his career, Char's work appeared in various editions, often with artwork by notable figures, including Kandinsky, Picasso, Braque, Miró, Matisse and Vieira da Silva.
Char joined the French Resistance in 1940, serving under the name of Captain Alexandre, where he commanded the Durance parachute drop zone. He refused to publish anything during the Occupation, but wrote the "Feuillets d'Hypnos" during it (1943–4), prose poems dealing with resistance. These were published in 1946, and were a grand success. During the 1950s and 1960s, despite brief and unhappy experiences in the theater and film, Char reached full maturity as a poet. In the 1960s, he joined the battle against the stationing of atomic weapons in Provence. He died of a heart attack in 1988 in Paris. The Hotel Campredon (also known as the Maison René Char) in L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is a public collection of his manuscripts, drawings, paintings and objets d'art.
Char was a friend and close associate of Albert Camus, Georges Bataille and Maurice Blanchot among writers, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró and Victor Brauner among painters. He was to have been in the car involved in the accident that killed both Camus and Michel Gallimard, but there was not enough room, and returned instead that day by train to Paris.
The composer Pierre Boulez wrote three settings of Char's poetry, Le Soleil des eaux, Le visage nuptial, and Le marteau sans maître. A late friendship developed also between Char and Martin Heidegger, who described Char's poetry as "a tour de force into the ineffable" and was repeatedly his guest at La Thor in the Vaucluse.
Better known works
- Arsenal (1929).
- Ralentir Travaux (1930 – in collaboration with André Breton and Paul Éluard).
- Artine (1930).
- L'action de la justice est éteinte (1931).
- Le marteau sans maître (1934).
- Moulin Premier (1936).
- Placard pour un chemin des écoliers (1937).
- Dehors la nuit est gouvernée (1938).
- Seuls demeurent (1945).
- Feuillets d'Hypnos (1946).
- "Le poème pulvérisé" (1947).
- Fureur et mystère (1948).
- Les Matinaux (1950).
- A une sérénité crispée (1951).
- Recherche de la base et du sommet (1955).
- La Parole en archipel (1962).
- Dans la pluie giboyeuse (1968).
- Le Nu perdu (1971).
- Aromates chasseurs (1976).
- Chants de la Balandrane (1977).
- Fenêtres dormantes et porte sur le toit (1979).
- Les voisinages de Van Gogh (1985).
- Éloge d'une soupçonnée (1988).
Among the poets to translate his hermetic works into English are William Carlos Williams, Samuel Beckett, Richard Wilbur, James Wright, John Ashbery, W. S. Merwin, Cid Corman, Gustaf Sobin, Kevin Hart (poet) and Paul Auster. Translators into German have included Paul Celan and Peter Handke.Translators into Bulgarian include Georgi Mitzkov and Zlatozar Petrov.
- Le Monde's 100 Books of the Century, a list which includes Fureur et mystère
- juin_juill:Mise en page 1
- Rüdiger Safranski, Ein Meister aus Deutschland. Heidegger und seine Zeit, 1994. Ch. 23.
Selections in English
- Char, René (1952). Poems. Translated by Denis Devlin; Jackson Mathews. Rome: Botteghe Oscure X.
- Char, René (1956). Hypnos Waking: Poems and Prose. Translated by Jackson Mathews. New York, NY: Random House.
- Char, René (1973). Leaves of Hypnos. Translated by Cid Corman. New York, NY: Grossman. ISBN 0-670-42255-X.
- Char, René (1976). Poems of René Char. Translated by Mary Ann Caws; Jonathan Griffin. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-06297-8.
- Char, René (1984). No Siege is Absolute: Versions of René Char. Translated by Franz Wright. Providence, R.I.: Lost Roads Publishers. ISBN 0-918786-25-8.
- Breton, André; Char, René; Éluard, Paul (1990). Ralentir, travaux = Slow, under construction. Translated by Keith Waldrop. Cambridge, Mass.: Exact Change. ISBN 1-878972-01-4.
- Char, René (1992). Mary Ann Caws; Tina Jolas, eds. Selected Poems of René Char. New York, NY: New Directions. ISBN 0-8112-1191-6.
- Char, René (2003). Susanne Dubroff, ed. The Smoke that Carried Us: Selected Poems of René Char. Buffalo, NY: White Pine Press. ISBN 1-893996-70-0.
- Char, René (2007). The Summons of Becoming: Marking the Centenary of a Poet. Translated by Mary Ann Caws. Millwood, NY: Haybarn Press.
- Char, René (2009). The Brittle Age and Returning Upland. Translated by Gustav Sobin. Denver, Colo.: Counterpath Press. ISBN 978-1-933996-11-0.
- Char, René (2010). Stone Lyre: Poems of René Char. Translated by Nancy Naomi Carlson. North Adams, Mass.: Tupelo Press. ISBN 978-1-932195-78-1.
- Char, René (2012). The Word as Archipelago. Translated by Robert Baker. Richmond, Calif.: Omnidawn Pub. ISBN 978-1-890650-47-6.
- Baker, Robert (2012). In Dark Again in Wonder: The Poetry of René Char and George Oppen. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press. ISBN 978-0-268-02229-7.
- Battaile, Georges (1994). Michael Richardson, ed. The Absence of Myth: Writings on Surrealism. London: Verso. ISBN 0-86091-419-4.
- Blanchot, Maurice (1993). The Infinite Conversation. Minneapolis, Minn.: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-1969-7.
- Caws, Mary Ann (1976). The Presence of René Char. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-06305-2.
- Caws, Mary Ann (1977). René Char. Boston, Mass.: Twayne Publishers. ISBN 0-8057-6268-X.
- Cranston, Mechthild (1979). Orion Resurgent: René Char: Poet of Presence. Madrid: J. P. Turanzas. ISBN 84-7317-082-2.
- Eichbauer, Mary E. (1992). Poetry's Self-portrait: The Visual Arts as Mirror and Muse in René Char and John Ashbery. New York, N.Y.: P. Lang. ISBN 0-8204-1817-X.
- Jackson, Elizabeth R. (1976). Worlds Apart: Structural Parallels in the Poetry of Paul Valéry, Saint-John Perse, Benjamin Péret and René Char. The Hague: Mouton. ISBN 0-691-06305-2.
- La Charité, Virginia A. (1968). The Poetics and Poetry of René Char. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press. LCCN 75626086.
- Lancaster, Rosemary (2010). Poetic Illumination: René Char and his Artist Allies. Amsterdam: Rodopi. ISBN 978-90-420-3207-1.
- Lawler, James R. (1978). René Char: The Myth and the Poem. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-06355-9.
- Piore, Nancy Kline (1981). Lightning: The Poetry of René Char. Boston, Mass.: Northeastern University Press. ISBN 0-930350-08-1.
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