Stéphane Mallarmé

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Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than in the one where they sprung up.
Oliver Wendell Holmes
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The flesh is sorrowful, alas! And I’ve read all the books.

Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-03-181898-09-09), born Étienne Mallarmé, was a poet and critic. Along with Paul Verlaine he was a leader of the French Symbolist movement. His poems are often said to be almost untranslatable.


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  • J'invente une langue qui doit nécessairement jaillir d'une poétique très nouvelle, que je pourrais définir en ces deux mots: Peindre, non la chose, mais l'effet qu'elle produit.
    • I am inventing a language which must necessarily burst forth from a very new poetics, that could be defined in a couple of words: Paint, not the thing, but the effect it produces.
    • Letter to Henri Cazalis, October 30, 1864; Stéphane Mallarmé (ed. Mondor & Jean-Aubry) Oeuvres Complètes (1945) p. 307. Translation from Rosemary Lloyd Mallarmé: The Poet and his Circle ([1999] 2005) p. 48.
  • L'après-midi d'un faune.
    • The afternoon of a faun.
    • Title of poem (1867). Translation from Rosemary Lloyd Mallarmé: The Poet and his Circle ([1999] 2005) p. 49.
  • La chair est triste, hélas! et j'ai lu tous les livres.
    • The flesh is sorrowful, alas! And I've read all the books.
    • "Brise Marine", line 1 (1887). Translation from Rosemary Lloyd Mallarmé: The Poet and his Circle ([1999] 2005) p. 70.
  • Le monde est fait pour aboutir à un beau livre.
    • The world was made in order to result in a beautiful book.
    • Remark made to Jules Huret, who published it in his Enquête sur l’évolution littéraire (1891). [1] Translation from Frederic Chase St. Aubyn Stéphane Mallarmé (1969) p. 23.
  • L'acte poétique consiste à voir soudain qu'une idée se fractionne en un nombre de motifs égaux par valeur et à les grouper; ils riment.
    • The poetic act consists in suddenly seeing that an idea splits into a number of motives of equal value and in grouping them; they rhyme.
    • "Crise de Vers", La Revue Blanche (September 1895) [2]. Translation from Rosemary Lloyd Mallarmé: The Poet and his Circle ([1999] 2005) p. 231.
  • L'oeuvre pure implique la disparition élocutoire du poëte, qui cède l'initiative aux mots.
    • The work of pure poetry implies the elocutionary disappearance of the poet, who yields the initiative to words.
    • "Crise de Vers", La Revue Blanche (September 1895) [3]. Translation from Rosemary Lloyd Mallarmé: The Poet and his Circle ([1999] 2005) p. 55.
  • Ce n'est pas avec des idées qu'on fait des vers, c'est avec des mots.
    • We do not write poems with ideas, but with words.
    • A remark reported in Henri Delacroix Psychologie de l'art (1927), p. 93. Translation from Maria Elisabeth Kronegger Literary Impressionism (1973) p. 77.

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