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Jamais une ombre simple.

Hedi Kaddour's second volume of poetry, published like his first (La fin des vendanges) under the prestigious NRF imprint, is a wonderful collection full of fresh images, linguistic bezels, and sinewy delights. The seven parts of which it is constituted are bound by thematic continuity, lyricism, and irony, though different in their elaboration and utterance. Each poem is a window looking out on life with the eyes of a dazzled child. One is struck in this volume by the preponderance of childhood imagery and the preoccupation with time, both of which suggest innocence, albeit irretrievable - "On oublierait l'idee qu'un mouton / Meurt rarement de vieillesse" - and transience: "Du fond d'un chagrin sans egal on peut / Alors tenir en respect le Vieillard Temps / Et sa manie de tout racier contre les murs."

As its title suggests, Jamais une ombre simple heralds and celebrates the alliance of poetry and life, a life that is, like poetry, rife with luminous shadows: "les paysans maudissent / Ceux [les citadins] qui se frottent sur l'herbe de leur chance." This intense preoccupation with the essential and ephemeral in life accounts perhaps for Kaddour's predilection for proverbial yet humorous pronouncements: "Les mains d'avocat sont toujours / Dans la poche de quelqu'un." Kaddour's knack for touching the essential is expressed in a transparent, almost translucent language yet always pregnant with meaning, "des mots pour tousles sens": "Il y a toujours quelqu'un pour se souvenir / D'une tranche de pasteque mangee a deux / Quand la lumiere est a pic / Sur les fontaines a Florence." Kaddour's love of analogy may explain the proliferation in this volume of the conjunction comme, the alchemical key, as the surrealist called it, to unexpected and marvelous associations: "la musique, / Comme les enfants, c'est toujours / Vers la separation qu'elle grandit."

Even though it evokes and invokes other kindred spirits (Jabes, Rabier, Follain), the collection seems to have been written in the "luminous" shadow of Rene Char. From Char, Kaddour borrows not only the title, Jamais une ombre simple, and a penchant for axiomatic utterances - "Poesie, / Le chagrin contenu par le metre" - but also a congenial affinity for certain motifs, namely that of the serpent: "Et seul l'oubli t'aurait permis / De ne pas finir comme le serpent / Qui m'accompagne et qui depuis des siecles / N'en finit pas de se mordre la queue." But unlike Char's, Kaddour's poetry is lighthearted and sometimes even playfully meditative: "une femme jeune qui recite aujourd'hui / Tes poemes en caressant le sexe de son amant." Still, this seeming dilettantism is always marked by intermittent but intense illuminations: "la mort, comme la poesie, / Est une cible fausse: c'est elle qui vient."

Jamais une ombre simple is spiritual, personal, almost intimist. From the unique distillation of what he has experienced and felt more deeply there arises in Kaddour's poetry a sense of loss that somehow the poet magically transforms into a sense of delight.

Hedi Abdel-Jaouad Skidmore College
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Author:Abdel-Jaouad, Hedi
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1996
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