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I had to confront, whenever I could, that so elusive prey shadowing itself. Here was this brilliant title: La proie s’ombre, and I cared greatly about getting the darkness into it, the somber-ness. The publisher, CMP, suggested: “Self-Shading Prey,” said it was more mellifluous, Shakespearean, and I insisted that “shading” was too positive, it was what we have to do in the south, and in the south of France also, trees do it — that is why we plant them there — and we are GRATEFUL. There is sun there; this text feels sunless. Now, no one is grateful for being shadowed (as in stalked), and I thought, and think, the “s’ombre” was catching just that fear and that darkness, and is responsible for its own darkening, it shadows itself, whereas the briefer and more giving kind of shade was not what Luca was about. Where there can be complication, he enjoys it: so, not just the “ombre” or shade, but the “s’ombre” or somber, and the prey does it to him or herself — it is of course the feminine, this “proie” — as the victim is feminine in French, so is this “prey.” Now I had, of course, read Luca’s five suicide notes, published in the very grand Black Widow Press translation, and had read his notes scribbled in smaller and smaller and fainter writing in the manuscripts, before he actually jumped off that Pont Mirabeau, just where Paul Celan had, and I was not about to make lighter what was a truly dark text. In the manuscript, I was totally drawn into the way in which Luca had sketched out exactly how he wanted the lines to be set in print, how the margins should surround them, how it would all look and be. The ultra-frequent repetitions functioned like a series, and the entire experience felt like one long and remarkable venture inside the words and their paths. It was now a very long path. Happily, and it was indeed the happiest thing about this whole translation, the former director of the Doucet, Sabine Coron, asked me if I would like to meet Micheline Catti, Luca’s’ widow. I had phoned her at once, if very shyly, when I was so involved in the manuscript, but had not been able to meet her, since I was leaving the next day.

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Profile for Contra Mundum Press

Gherasim Luca Centenary Issue  

Essays and reflections in English and French on Romanian surrealist Gherasim Luca, including Luca's own texts and art. Also featuring rumi...

Gherasim Luca Centenary Issue  

Essays and reflections in English and French on Romanian surrealist Gherasim Luca, including Luca's own texts and art. Also featuring rumi...

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