Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Le Monde 100: Paroles

Jacques Prevert is a film maker and an important one at that. His film The Children of Paradise is considered one of the greatest films ever made by many critics.
I have never seen it.
However, I have just finished reading Paroles, a collection of poetry by Prevert that was written in after World War II. It is a translation from French to English, which many people find lacking as English is not one of the Romance languages. Here is an example of the difference of his poem "Alicante" for you to decide:

Une orange sur la table
Ta robe sur le tapis
Et toi dans mon lit
Doux present du present
Fraicheur de la nuit
Chaleur de ma vie.

An orange on the table
Your dress on the rug
And you in my bed
Sweet present of the present
Cool of night
Warmth of my life.

It's hard to tell if it's these particular words sound better or if it's just the fact that the French language roles off the tongue so much nicer.

A copy of Paroles was published by Lawrence Ferlinghetti at the City Lights bookstore. That makes sense because, even though Prevert didn't have the same stream-of consciousness approach to poetry like many of the Beats, he did pull his inspiration from the ramifications of being in a so-called "civilized" society in the light of incredible horrors inflicted by it. For the Beats, the evil of society seemed to be rampant industrialism, which was the breeding ground for the nuclear arms race. For Prevert, it seemed to be a more personal evil of patriotism, much like Louise-Ferdinand Celine. In my favorite poem of his, "The New Order," Prevert writes of the German soldier who has to deal with the dulling of the shine of the stars of the Great Hope they once had in Hitler. He has to live in a "New Order" that is very different than what he thought it would be and it is equal to returning home to live in a house that has fallen down.

Prevert has a way of creating a scene in the mind that is both visual and poignant and is probably why his screenwriting is so popular.  The opening lines in "The New Order" read like the setting passages of a play:

The sun lies on the soil
Litre of spilled wine
A house has collapsed
Like a drunk on the pavement

If someone has a copy of The Children of Paradise, can we please have a viewing party?

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