Bilingual French-English edition
Jules Supervielle (1884-1960) was born to French parents in Montevideo, orphaned within a year of his birth, and grew up in Uruguay and France. He spent the Second World War exiled in Uruguay, afflicted by ill health and financial ruin.
His poems are dreamlike, often gently fantastical, imbued with an appealing surface clarity. His work stands apart from much 20th-century French poetry, and he has been characterised as a writer of Basque descent who wrote in French but in the Spanish tradition, with a strong affinity for the open spaces of his South American childhood and nostalgia for a cosmic brotherhood of men. In many respects he seems our contemporary, a writer of highly personal poems as well as poems concerned with war and the environment.
Moniza Alvi writes: ‘I have been making versions of Supervielle’s poems for several years, strongly drawn to his style of writing, while also finding coincidental parallels with my own life, such as his birth “elsewhere” on another continent. My aim has been to retain the spirit of the French poems, and as many of their implications as I can, while making a poem that has a life in English. I thought he was an enchanting, inspiring poet who deserved to be so much better known in this country.’
‘In her striking versions of poems by the French poet Jules Supervielle, written against the backdrop of wartime France, Moniza Alvi has found a soul-mate, a poet companion’ – Penelope Shuttle, Poetry London