The Brittle Age and Returning Upland
by René Char Translated by Gustaf Sobin


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When Gustaf Sobin arrived in France at the age of twenty-seven in 1963, he befriended the poet René Char, who, as Sobin writes, “taught me my trade.” “René Char taught me, first, to read particulars: that the meticulously observed detail, drawn from nature, could provide the key to the deepest reaches of the imaginary. One and the other, the visible and the invisible, were but the interface of a single, singular, vibratory surface: that of the poem itself.” The Brittle Age and Returning Upland are two volumes from Char’s work of the mid to late 1960’s that Sobin chose to translate in full. Here, side by side with Char’s French text, it is possible to see Sobin building his poetic vocabulary within and as a result of the practice of his mentor, “scrupulously tracking the very trajectories of desire, [leading] one onto the sonorous landscapes of the revelatory.” The book includes a Foreword by noted Char translator and critic, Mary Ann Caws.

René Char (1907–1988) was one of the most important modern French poets. Admired by Heidegger for his poetic philosophy, he was a hero of the French Resistance and in the 1960s a militant anti-nuclear protester. Associated with the Surrealist movement for several years and a close friend of many painters—notably Braque, Giacometti, and Picasso—he wrote poetry that confronted major 20th century moral, political, and artistic concerns.

Gustaf Sobin (1935–2005) was born in Boston but lived most of his life in the Provence region of France. Among his many books are Breath’s Burials (poetry, New Directions, 1995), Luminous Debris (1999) and Ladder of Shadows (2008) (essays, University of California Press), Aura: Last Essays (Counterpath, 2008), and Collected Poetry (Talisman House, 2010).

Václav Paris reviews The Brittle Age and Returning Upland
by René Char in Jacket2

Ron Silliman’s review of The Brittle Age and Returning Upland

The Brittle Age and Returning Upland
René Char
Translated by Gustaf Sobin
$25.00; 176 pages
ISBN 978-1933996-11-0