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Sonnets dispars suivis de Cinq autres sonnets, Une fabule et Deux ampliations.

It was Jacques Lacan who wrote that beauty's step must be a halting, limping step: "mail il faut y boiter juste" (Ecrits). This statement, which Nathalie Georges places as an epigraph above the first part of her Sonnets dispars, aptly describes her style. Although in sonnet form, her verses limp along "dans la glu de l'etre" or stutter in monosyllabic echoes (e.g., "ses bords de gue en gue au gre des arbres)," or "Le tu qui me tint peau a peau" that leave far behind memories of the sonnet's elegant original singing. Despite the occasional use of an old-fashioned vocabulary or syntax ("Decidee suis") that should strike a familiar chord in literary history, Georges's verses are much closer in tone to our twentieth-century notes of unease and displacement than to the well-wrought melodies of the past, however poignant.

The figures and figurations from antiquity that pass through these "sonnets dispars," like "Melancholie" (sic) and Aphrodite, deprived of their historical settings, become fragments of "la memoire massicotee" caught in the language of an "amplitude amoindrie." Words are dissected into letters ("des jou-- / Rs accommoder"), and letters fall out of line to underscore the limping nature of the text.

"The body is with the king, but the king is not with the body" (Hamlet), Georges writes as an epigraph to her "Fabule affable" that follows the thirteen sonnets and is, like her tide, a play on sound and meaning. The king's verdict is broken up into a ver dict; the "bel aujourd'hui" of collective literary memory becomes "le bel hier," suggesting, to the eye, its possible animal homophone (belier).

"Il n'existe pas de couleur nommee Amour," Georges quotes from Izumi-Shikibu in the epigraph to her final section, "Deux ampliations," which again plays an ancient syntax and vocabulary against our twentieth-century feelings of anguish and nonbelonging. The collection ends on the verse "La prise de la certitude," but what the reader comes away with is only an elusive hold on a world that limps toward its "Chute" (the title of her last poem) as toward an originary "Ur," stripped, like Hamlet, of a stable formal or figurative identity too long taken for granted.

Mechthild Cranston
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Author:Cranston, Mechthild
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1994
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