CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
from A Tomb for Anatole
Stéphane Mallarmé
translated by William Marsh



TRANSLATOR’S INTRODUCTION


The starting point for the following poems lies in Paul Auster’s excellent 1983 translation of Mallarmé’s long poem, Pour un tombeau d’Anatole, released by North Point Press under the title A Tomb for Anatole. These new translations are intended not to replace but to augment and reconfigure both Auster’s translations and the task itself of translating from French to English. Drawing impetus from Walter Benjamin’s claim in “The Task of the Translator” that “a translation issues from the original—not so much from its life as from its afterlife,” the following poems attempt to define the “afterlife” of Mallarmé’s Anatole while carefully acknowledging both Auster’s work and the notion (again Benjamin) that “a translation, instead of resembling the meaning of the original, must lovingly and in detail incorporate the original’s mode of signification, thus making both the original and the translation recognizable as fragments of a greater language.” With the intention of honoring both the sense and form of Mallarmé’s poem (its mode of signification), these new renderings make use of both homophonic and anagrammic translation tools in constructing the English versions (or harmonies) of the original fragments. Employing a set of devices including anagram, same-sound correlations, exact or near-exact cognates, as well as common etymologies (near-matches of meaning), the poems excerpted here try to rebuild the Mallarmé texts in such a way that both the syntactical variety and the physical shape (letters, words, lines) of the originals are reflected as well in the English.








1

enfant sorti de
nous deux—nous
montrant notre
idéal, le chemin
—à nous! père
et mère qui lui
           en triste existence
survivons comme
les deux extrêmes—
mal associés en lui
et qui se sont séparés
—d’ou sa mort—annu-
lant ce petit <<soi>> d’enfant




an infant dies to
us both—de
monstrates our
ideal, child-man
—anew! father
& mother quietly
            entrust existence
survive a son in
the two extremes—
malassociating him
acquiescing separate
—death is more—nul
ling this tiny “self” denied


2

                      (3
meilleures
comme s’il <quand>
était encore—
quelqu’ils fussent,
des qualificatifs
digne—etc.
les heures où
vous fûtes et ne
fûtes pas



                       (3
better is
he becomes <could>—
that which was,
engraved qualities
dignity—etc.
the hours you
fought but never
fought past


3

malade au
          printemps
mort en automne
     —c’est le soleil
                         —— -
         la vague
idée            la toux
2



ailing in
         springtime
mourned in autumn
     —celestial soul
                        ——-
        the wave
idea           attacks
2

4

fils
      résorbé
pas parti
        c’est lui
—ou son frère
             moi
            je le lui
              ai dit
      deux frères
                        —-



if he’s
      reabsorbed
is a-part
        it’s he
—or his brother
            me
            shall i
              say it
      two brothers
                       —-

5

refoulée restée
en flanc—
<juste> sur de moi
            siècle
ne s’écoulera pas
juste pour
         m’in struire




repelled—resting
in womb—
<just> over me
            century
won’t roll past
just for
         my instruction


6

     pas connu
mère, et fils ne
m’a pas connu!—
     —image de moi
     autre que moi
             emporté en
             mort!




     unknown
mother, a face un
recognized!—
     —image of me
     other than me
             transported in
             death!


7

              qui s’est réfugié
ton futur    en moi
              devient ma
pureté a travers vie,
à laquelle je ne
     toucherai pas—




              what’s in refuge
your future    in me
              become my
purity through life,
which i shall not
     touch upon—


8

il est        époque de
        une
l’Existence où nous
  nous retrouverons,
    sinon un lieu—
—et si vous
        en doutez
        le monde en
        sera témoin,
en supposant que
  je vive assez vieux
         ____ ___




it’s the    epoch of
      one
Existence in us
  in us retrieved,
    is not in lieu—
—& if you
        doubt these
        mundane
        testimonie s -
let’s suppose that
  i live long enough
         ____ ___


9

                  préf.

      père qui
      né en temps
mauvais avait
  préparé à fils—
    une tâche sublime


  <<la double à
  remplir—d’enfant
la sienne—la douleur le désire
    de se sacrifier à qui n’est
    plus l’emporteront-ils sur
vigueur (homme qui’il n’a pas été)
    et fera-t-il la tâche de l’enfant



                  pref.

      father who
      eve’n in times
gone bad had
  prepared a son—
    a touch sublime


  “the double re
  plenished—the child’s
his own—the dull hour the desir
    ed sacrifice to one who’s no
    more will triumph over
vigor (man he wasn’t to be)
    & through it all the task of infancy


10

  le but suprême
  n’eût été
  que partir pur
  de la vie
        tu l’as accompli
d’avance
    en souffrant
      assez—doux
      enfant pour que
Cela te soit compté
pour ta vie perdue—les tiens
ont acheté le reste par leur
              souffrance de ne plus t’avoir



  the highest aim
  nothing but
  to part pure
  from life
        you accomplish it
in advance
    in suffering
      all this—gentle
      infant so that
This will be counted
part of your due—your kin
have bought the rest by their
          suffering the loss forever