SELECTED LETTERS by Stephane MallarmÉ

SELECTED LETTERS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A sampling of the 19th-century French poet's wide-ranging correspondence, from early childhood through late career, capably translated, selected, and introduced by Cambridge Univ. French professor Lloyd. MallarmÉ (1842-98), a leading standard bearer of the symbolist movement, is as important for his aesthetic theory as he is for his poetry, and thus the merit of this selection consists in showing the progression of his critical thought. Combining strong opinions with charm, MallarmÉ's letters reveal a strong-willed figure reacting to the literary conventions of his day. Refuting the by-then programmatic Romantic emphasis on individual experience and excessive lyricism, as well as a tradition of mimesis, MallarmÉ stressed evocation and suggestiveness, and the possible parallels between poetry and music. In his call for elimination and compression, as opposed to effusiveness, MallarmÉ prefigures the modern period, though an emphasis on ""language restored to its essential rhythm"" shows the distinctiveness of his symbolist thought. Arranged chronologically, Lloyd's selection also highlights the evolution of MallarmÉ's emotional development, depicts relations with his family, and in the end portrays the isolation and integrity of this influential intellectual stranded during the better part of his career as a rural schoolteacher in the French provinces. A worthwhile and sensibly orchestrated presentation, suitable for anyone interested in the development of the symbolist movement.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1988
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago Press