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Saturday, November 3 • 9:00am - 10:30am
5.A. Editing, or The Politics of Surrealist Publication

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PANEL. Editing, or The Politics of Surrealist Publication

"Translating Desnos: Chantfleurs et Chantfables in English, Pictures, Dance, and Song"
Kristen Strom
Grand Valley State University 

Among the most poignant, and yet often overlooked aspects of Robert Desnos’ oeuvre is the body of poems he wrote for children during the Occupation. While working for the Resistance, for which he faced arrest, deportation, and ultimately death, Desnos composed a volume of charming and playful poems about animals and flowers as a remarkable gesture of hope for the future. I have translated these poems into English and illustrated a selection of them with the intent of publishing them as a bilingual children’s book (presently under review). Desnos had also hoped that these poems might be set to music, and it has been my very great pleasure to oblige, composing and recording scores for over fifty of these intrinsically musical poems. My ultimate goal is that they might one day form the basis of a children’s ballet. This would necessitate partnerships not yet formed, but I have independently choreographed one of the songs to date with plans for more in the near future. Both the beauty of his life and the senselessness of his death have compelled me to keep his work alive in whatever manner I am able, particularly in an era in which the specter of fascism has been so disturbingly reawakened. I propose to provide an overview of these works with critical reflections on the process of intermedial translation. For further review, selections of the songs, translations, illustrations, and the dance are featured on my website: www.barefootballet.net (select headings Desnos Songs, Drawings, Choreography, and Translations respectively).

"'And what shall I love if not the enigma?': An Inquiry into the Four Seasons Book Society’s Hebdomeros"
Rachael Guynn Wilson
New York University

In his 1966 review of a new English-language translation of Giorgio de Chirico's influential surrealist novel Hebdomeros, John Ashbery called attention to the translator’s masterful rendering of the novel’s enigmatic atmosphere and diction on the one hand, and to the mysterious circumstances surrounding the publication itself, on the other. “Everything about Hebdomeros is mysterious,” Ashbery wrote; “The present edition is something of a mystery itself: printed in Belgrade, it is published here by a firm with a New York address but no telephone. The excellent translation is anonymous.” While the Four Seasons Book Society translation is the preeminent English-language translation of Hebdomeros, both the translator and publisher are virtually unknown: It is an “orphaned” work—one whose rights holders cannot be named or located. My paper on the FSBS edition of Hebdomeros weaves a picture of a network of readers, writers, publishers, and booksellers that coalesces around a bibliographic mystery. Blending old fashioned research methods such as oral history interviews and archival research with powerful internet database searches, this project attempts to use the surrealist method of “objective chance” to unfold a sociology of the book—diving deep into the uncanny networks that connect people and times and places through printed matter.

"Challenges of an Editing Process: Paul Paon Zaharia’s La Rose parallèle"
Monique Yaari
Penn State University

This paper, accompanied by visuals, will briefly introduce Paul Paon, then focus on the editorial process that brought to light his most ambitious, mature text—a process relevant to any scholar embarking on a similar venture. Paul Păun/Paon (1915-1994) was a surgeon, poet, plastic artist, and founding member of the 1940s surrealist group of Bucharest, who never renounced his surrealist outlook or idiom. Marked by the fascism and anti-Semitism of the 1930s, WWII, and the totalitarianism that followed, he eventually emigrated from Romania in 1961. La Rose parallèle is a generically hybrid text (a prose poem interspersed with verse, an ars poetica embedded in a loose autobiographical space, ethical and historical echoes mixing with esoteric elements). At times evocative of Paon’s black ink drawings, it resists simplistic interpretation. Written between 1953 and 1972, it circulated as a self produced, artisanal object with a limited readership. As the centennial of Paon’s birth approached, I undertook its official publication. Establishing an error-free text from multiple typescripts and several manuscripts presented a series of challenges. Implementing the most recent corrections and errata provided by the author was straightforward, but choosing among various mises-en-page in the existing versions was a more delicate task. Most challenging were questions of semantics, when variances of a single word or letter could radically transform meaning. I will highlight the decision-making process, derived from the archeology of temporally multi-layered manuscripts, a web of elusive cultural allusions, and the relationship between French and the author’s native language.


Kirsten Strom

Grand Valley State University

Rachael Wilson

New York University

Monique Yaari

Pennsylvania State University


Mary Ann Caws

Graduate School of the City University of New York

Saturday November 3, 2018 9:00am - 10:30am EDT
Room A. Hildreth-Mirza Hall: Great Room Annex (ground floor)