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4X1: Works by Tristan Tzara, Rainer Maria Rilke, Jean-Pierre Duprey, and Habib Tengour

4.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0967985909
ISBN-10: 0967985900
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Editorial Reviews

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...[a] hieroglyph of 20th-century modernism, a signal of dynamic forces drawing from diverse threads of tradition and cultural interrogation. -- Rain Taxi Review of Books - Summer 2003

...show[s] not only historical contexts for these translations, but maps to a spiritual geography of the imagination... -- Skanky Possum May 2003
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Inconundrum Press (January 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0967985900
  • ISBN-13: 978-0967985909
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,206,296 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Julie Marden on August 1, 2010
Format: Paperback
In 4 x 1, Pierre Joris translates lesser known works by Tristan Tzara, Rainer Maria Rilke, Jean-Pierre Duprey, and Habib Tengour, four twentieth century poets out of Europe and North Africa. Together, this collection leads us on an intimate, evocative journey through four major poetic and literary trends (Dadaism, Modernism, Surrealism, and Postmodernism) of the previous hundred years. One book, four poets. Four poets, one translator. Joris is an expert guide. Here are four passages, not at all representative of major themes or styles, but simply four among many passages that lured me through the text, like stars in a distant night sky.

From Tzara's Dadaist ethnopoetic output, his Poemes Negres, this excerpt of a Maori song from New Zealand: "sing a song/shove/ an oar in the water/ deeply/ a long stroke/ ai ai/ a pull on the oar/ an old man stands out by the pull on his oar/ further/ bend/ cape/ out to sea/ out to sea"

From Rilke's 1921 Testament (unpublished until 1976): "And suddenly I wished, wished, o wished with all the ardor my heart had ever been capable of, wished to be, not one of the two apples - in the painting -, not of these painted apples on the painted window sill - even that seemed too much of a fate . . . No: to become the soft, the small, unseeming shadow of one of these apples - that was the wish into which the whole of my being gathered itself."

From Jean Pierre Duprey's 1959 The End and the Manner: "The Moon of Salt: 1. During the night, during that night white as teeth, there was no more shadow upon which to hang one's skin, no more lateness into which to drain time, and the heart had used up its beats. . . . We were saying: / "She is long, long like nobody . .. / -- It's the road changed by the winds./ -- A floating eyelid?
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Format: Paperback
I thought this book extraordinary! It takes you to another relm -- above the mundane and floats you gently. I can't wait to read it again and again.
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Format: Paperback
A remarkable group of translated writings comprises 4x1, meaning four poets, one translator. Poet and educator Pierre Joris translates works by old and new writers: Tristan Tzara, Rainer Maria Rilke, Jean-Pierre Duprey, and Habib Tengour. The opening question is why this quartet of writers? Joris answers with the following reasons: he has chosen writers he considers his favorites, the works share a surrealist leaning, and, although he doesn't state it explicitly, the works must have been great fun to translate. They provide a recipe for success.
Opening the book are the Poèmes Nègres by Dada poet Tristan Tzara. These are the total output of Tzara's ethnopoetic works. They are sharp, surprising poems based upon tribal and oral tales from non-European cultures that Tzara assembled and composed from a variety of scholarly sources. The poems are astonishingly strange in that they are built upon a repetition and musicality quite different than what common today. The suite shares a pedestal in this regard perhaps only with the poems in Stephen Watson's Song of the Broke String (1991) in which he draws upon traditional /Xam stories. I would acquire 4x1 for the Poèmes Nègres alone.
Other excepted works include Rilke's diaristic The Testament and Duprey's The End and The Manner in which we find the brilliant lament, "I, for one, should never have gotten my feet caught in this galaxy!" The book wraps up with the first few chapters of Tengour's The Old Man of the Mountain. The story develops slowly as attentive description knocks against capricious musings. Representation becomes ethereal much like the scent of wood smoke tracing through a campground -- it's definitely there but impossible to physically grab.
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Format: Paperback
"4 X 1" gathers together four previously published translations by the distinguished poet Pierre Joris. It will prove a happy surprise for anyone attuned to 20th century poetics, art, and sociology. (Odd that we can now begin to think of the 20th century as a bygone era. Of Joris's subjects, Rilke and Tzara began it; Duprey was mid-century; Tengour, born in 1947, is still very much active.)

For those with an interest in Rilke, this book is self-recommending, containing as it does the first-ever English translation of his "Testament," which had remained unpublished until 1976. Beyond that, the little known corners of Dadaism, Surrealism, and Arab poetry that Joris explores are fascinating, and he helpfully ties all this together in his postludes, which are erudite and to the point. Graced with evocative artwork by Nicole Peyrafitte, "4 X 1" is handsomely presented by Inconundrum Press.

Tristan Tzara, best known as a Surrealist poet, devoted a deal of effort to creating "ethnopoetry," translations into French (and sometimes German) of what he termed Negro poetry. In reality, his source material (supplied by the researches of archeologists and ethnographers) was far-flung, coming from various parts of Africa, Mozambique, Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands. Tzara's pithy introduction to this work concludes with a perfect summation of its effect: "Poetry lives first of all for the functions of dance, religion, music and work." Every now and then a stunning line of English poetry emerges from Joris's thrice removed translations.

According to Joris's lively notes, Tzara's ethnopoems sometimes received Dadaist presentations at Zurich's Cafe Voltaire, with Hugo Ball accompanying them on drums(!).
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