Wednesday, October 19, 2016
"The Thief of Talent by Pierre Reverdy & Translated by Ian Seed (Wakefield Press)
"The Thief of Talent" by Pierre Reverdy & Translated by Ian Seed (Wakefield Press) 978-1-939663-19-1
When I first heard about this book "The Thief of Talent" by Pierre Reverdy, I was expecting an experimental novel. It's not. It's a book length prose poem that is incredibly moving and beautiful. The book came out in France in 1917, and was pretty much ignored till at least 1967. In 2016, Wakefield Press has done the first english translation by Ian Seed. It's a remarkable book about an artist/poet leaving their scene. A long goodbye note of sorts, but also a very poetic look of a world that passes him by - which happens to be Paris, 1917.
Reverdy, is without a doubt, one of the great poetic voices of the 20th century. This early work by him, exposes a certain amount of doubt in working in a world that is often hostile, or at the very least, suspicious of such activity. The great fellow poet/art critic Max Jacob encouraged Reverdy to write this book, but at the same time, one gather by this text that their relationship had sharp turns to the left and right, when it wanted to go straight ahead. According to Seed's introduction, the big turning point for Reverdy in writing this book was when Jacob hid his writings from Reverdy by closing a chest door in front of him. This very act, caused a certain amount of stress for Reverdy, even though it was common practice for artists and writers of that time, to hide their work from fellow artists, due to the fear of being plagiarized.
Maybe because it is due that Dylan just won the Nobel Prize for literature, but I couldn't help thinking about his work, while reading this book. Dylan is known for 'borrowing' text for his songs/writings, and one wonder if he knew Reverdy's work. I suspect he does. This, almost reads like a Dylan book written in the future. Like Dylan, Reverdy is very cinematic with his writing. One gets clear visuals while reading the text. He knows how to paint a picture in one's head. For me, I can't think of a 'new' book that is so important. The loss of identity or to question such a thing, is very much part of 20th century literature. And I have to admit it is very much part of my work as well. "The Thief of Talent" is for all those who create something, and the need to say au revoir.