October 09, 2009

The mithycal figure of Saint-John Perse

Saint-John Perse is a mythical figure, those of the poet who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1960. Saint-John Perse is also a figure magnified by Alexis Leger, diplomat who used for the first time that nickname with the release of Anabase in 1924. Exiled to the United States during World War II, refusing to ally with de Gaulle, Alexis Leger, businessman lurking in the shadow of the poet, has consistently built his own legend. He prepares himself the biography that opens the publication of his complete works released by the Pleiade in 1972. Renaud Meltz, a historian based at the University of Tahiti, published in 2008 an extensive biography, with 800 documented pages, and set straight the double face of this man of strategy and poetry. (See the interview with Renaud Meltz - source Channel Academy, review of Damien Le Guay).
The poetry of Saint-John Perse, admired for its precision and purity, is difficult and not quite engaging for big audience. It builds a hypnotic and almost liturgical music. Saint-John Perse, during the speech at the Nobel Banquet, precise his vision of what the outcome of poetry is :
"True to his office, which is deepening the mystery of man, modern poetry engages in a business whose prosecution concerns the full integration of man. There is no prophecy in such poetry. Nor is it purely aesthetic [...] It finds a ally in beauty, supreme alliance, but does not take it for an end or its sole nourishment. Unwilling to separate art from life nor love from knowledge, it is passion, it is power, and innovation that always goes beyond bounds. "

Currently, the librairie Loliée offers :
  • Anabase. Paris, N.R.F., 1924, in-4. Firs Edition. One of the 62 copies on Vergé paper.
  • Quatre Poèmes (141-1944). Buenos Aires, Éditions des Lettres Françaises, 1944, petit in-4, in leaves. First edition. One of the 30 copies on Whatman paper, single deluxe edition.
  • Quatre Poèmes (1941-1944). Buenos Aires, Éditions Sur, in-12. First collective edition in the collection "La Porte Étroite" ran by Roger Caillois. This rare edition was withdraw and replaced by a second one which does not contain the preface by Archibald Macleish.
  • Pluies. Buenos Aires, Éditions des Lettres Françaises, 1944, booklet in-4. First edition. One of the 300 copies on Holland paper.
  • Pluies. Buenos Aires, Éditions des Lettres Françaises, 1944, booklet in-4, beautiful binding in grey cal leather, folder and case (P.L. Martin). First edition. One of the 30 first copoes on Whatman paper.
  • Chronique. Paris, Gallimard, 1960, in-4. First edition. One of the 165 copies on Holland paper.
  • Discours de Stockholm. Marseille, Cahiers du Sud, 1960, booklet in-8. First edition released with the issue n°358 (december 1960). Limited to 100 copies on Lafuma paper.
  • Lettres à l'Étrangère. Textes réunis et présentés par Mauricette Berne. Paris, Gallimard, 1987, in-8. First edition. Onf of the 32 copies on vellum " pur chiffon", single deluxe edition.