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Journal d’automne de Louis MacNeice

Elizabeth Pearce
p. 192-195
Bibliographical reference

Louis MacNeice, Journal d’automne (édition bilingue, traduit par Adolphe Haberer), Éditions Anagrammes, Perros-Guirec, 2013, 204 p., ISBN 978-2-84719-095-3.

Full text

1Louis MacNeice’s long poem Autumn Journal appeared in 1939, to be finally translated into French by Adolphe Haberer and published in 2013 by Éditions Anagrammes as a bilingual edition, in its entirety. Individual sections only of this poem have appeared in earlier published translations in France. The journal consists of MacNeice’s reflections on autumn 1938 as it unfolded, both personal and political, and thus it is valuable as a poetic and historic document. It was the year that preceded the beginning of World War 2, and a year marked by romantic complexities for MacNeice, based in London at the time. In the journal, observations of the confusions, conflicting beliefs and uncertainties of the period as experienced by the general British population combine with the fluctuating optimism and despair of MacNeice himself. This bilingual edition is a striking work, reflecting Haberer’s profound knowledge of MacNeice’s life and poetry as evidenced by his earlier important publication, Louis MacNeice, 1907-1963 : l’homme et la poésie, published in 1986. The translation is enhanced by the context provided by Haberer in the preface and notes.

2MacNeice’s long poem of 24 sections divided into “flexible quatrains” is marked by a unique rhythm composed notably of his punctuation and phrasing, his rhyming system, alternating short/long lines and various forms of repetition. These “rhythmic components” are retained where possible by Haberer, including the punctuation and the alternating line length. While not attempting to replicate the rhyming pattern, he compensates through alternative forms of emphasis and repetition. Further, Haberer largely stays with MacNeice’s colloquial, conversational writing style, resisting the pull towards ennobling the language and tone, or to clarification of existing, intentional ambiguity. Haberer’s use of key components of MacNeice’s rhythm allows the French reader to experience the complexity and apprehension of pre-war Britain, the political voice combining with the unique, clear personal voice to emerge forcefully from his translation.

3Entries in Journal d’automne constantly reveal MacNeice’s reactions to events, making unexpected leaps between cynicism and despair, tenderness and hope. This ambiguity can be seen in Section XVI for example, which is focused largely on his complicated and ambivalent relationship with his birthplace, Ireland. Here MacNeice reflects bitterly:

Les taches sur la page sont si noires
Que le trèfle ne peut les masquer.

4His ambivalence towards Ireland emerges briefly however a few lines on:

Ses collines sont toujours bleues, l’eau de ses rivières bouillonnantes
Court par-dessus les rochers.

5The final lines of the journal achieve a form of hopeful if weary acceptance, at the very end of 1938:

On aura le temps plus tard d’examiner
Les comptes, plus tard le soleil brillera
Et l’équation sera résolue à la fin.

6With the recent renewed interest in Louis MacNeice’s work in France, Haberer’s impressive translation of Autumn Journal, so clearly informed by his deep study of the poet, is certain to provide unprecedented insights.

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References

Bibliographical reference

Elizabeth Pearce, « Journal d’automne de Louis MacNeice », Études irlandaises, 41-2 | 2016, 192-195.

Electronic reference

Elizabeth Pearce, « Journal d’automne de Louis MacNeice », Études irlandaises [Online], 41-2 | 2016, Online since 30 November 2016, connection on 28 May 2017. URL : http://etudesirlandaises.revues.org/5064

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About the author

Elizabeth Pearce

University of Melbourne

By this author

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Copyright

© Presses universitaires de Rennes

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