Translator's notes

The Price of Time on the Île Saint-Germain

By Jacques Réda

For many English readers, Jacques Réda first came into view with The Ruins of Paris (Mark Treharne’s translation of Les Ruines de Paris, 1997), the collection of prose poems that places him in the lineage of great poet-flâneurs. Although reluctant to call himself a Parisian (’Je suis de province’), he has lived in the city since 1953 and many of his works draw on an intimate acquaintance with its streets and suburbs. The need for ‘a daily ration of asphalt’ has also taken him further afield on Xélos, an antiquated moped, as well as around Europe and beyond; a recent poetry collection comes from Tahiti, one of its poems (‘Each looks a diðerent ocean...’) translated here.

The Réda hallmark is – as with the bicycles of that name manufactured by his grandfather – unmistakeable. In all his works, from the many volumes of poetry to the spoof on detective novels, L’affaire du Ramsès III (2004), or hybrid works like Le Grand Orchestre (a personal tribute to Duke Ellington counterpointed with poems), the writing is inventive, witty, quizzical, with a lyricism that carries metaphysical inflections and ruefully disabused undertones. In contrast to the abstract modes of expression and formal liberties that characterize much modern French poetry, Réda’s verse has a strong visual element (which eases its passage into English) and an attachment to rhyme and metre (ever a challenge to the translator!).

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