BECKETT, Samuel (Translator). APOLLINAIRE, Guillaume. Zone. Dublin: Dolmen Press; London: Calder & Boyers, 1972.
Large 4to., original black leather-backed cloth lettered in gilt to spine and in blind to boards; upper edge gilt, else untrimmed; printed on handmade paper; pp. 23, [i]; a fine copy in slipcase which has benefitted from some very minor repairs to corners.
First edition of this English translation by Samuel Beckett. Number 152 of 250 copies signed by Beckett.
Apollinaire was a French poet, playwright and novelist. As part of a social circle which included painters (Picasso, Derain andVlaminck), composers (Satie and Poulenc) and poets (Blaise Cendrars, Max Jacob and Pierre Reverdy), he was a great defender of Cubism and one of the founding fathers of the surrealist movement of the early 20th century.
First published in 1913, Zone is possibly the central poem of Apollinaire's career, and marked a new direction in his style of writing. Discarding punction, and interchanging tenses, he refers to himself sometimes as 'I', sometimes as 'you' (both tu and vous in French), a habit that held a special appeal for O’Hara and other New York poets. In particular, the losely rhyming couplets prove tricky for a translator, although Beckett's interpretation has been praised by many for its sensitive rendering into English: "Beckett renders “C’est le beau lys que tous nous cultivons / C’est la torch aux cheveux roux que n’eteint pas le vent” as “It is the fair lily that we all revere / It is the torch burning in the wind its auburn hair.” In addition to the near-rhyme, Beckett gives us the echo of “burn” in “auburn,” a move that Apollinaire would have appreciated."(David Lehman)
Apollinaire died at the age of 38 from the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic. A line from his poem “Les Collines” (“The Hills”) is etched into his tombstone at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris: “Je peux mourir en souriant”—“I can die with a smile on my face.”