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Death Poems
by Jacques Prevel

Jacques Prevel (1915-1951) is known for a diary he kept through the last dying years of Antonin Artaud. And for nothing else. Artaud eclipsed him in life, and obliterated him in death. Yet Prevel was also a poet, and if he chronicled the dwindling existence of Artaud as a matter of obsession, he also did so with the hope that some glimmer of light shot out from the great man would in time illuminate his own literary efforts. This hope was in vain, its trajectory as simple as it was brutal: Prevel died, and then the few who knew him promptly forgot about him. Now we have a new opportunity to despise him, and perhaps raze his memory once and for all.

Prevel produced three scant collections of poetry over his short lifetime. This book is a complete translation of the first. The last time it was published in any language was by Prevel himself, in 1945. Prior to his encounter with Artaud, Prevel was loosely associated with the writers of the Grand Jeu (René Daumal, Roger Gilbert-Lecomte) and other incendiaries like Arthur Adamov, who inhabited the demon-haunted underworld of French literature in the last century.
But Prevel’s poems are darker, his themes at once more crude and more singular, the excreta of a crystalline nihilism which will affirm readers in nothing but their self-hatred. These are songs of the dying self. And this is a volume for those who believe, with Prevel, that poetry is another word for immolation.

Translated and with an introduction by Tobias Freeman

Illustrated by Karolina Urbaniak

Out now

Hardcover, 92 pages, 190 x 148mm

ISBN 978-1-915908-02-5

About the authors

Jacques Marie Prevel was born on 21 July 1915 in the Norman town of Bolbec, and moved to Le Havre at the age of eighteen. He married, and through his wife obtained a post as a copywriter in the municipal administration. In 1942 he moved to occupied Paris, where he befriended Arthur Adamov, Roger Gilbert-Lecomte, and then fatefully, on 27 May 1946, Antonin Artaud. He self-published three short collections of poetry, the first of which is translated here for the first time into English. He died alone in Room 109 of the sanatorium at Sainte-Feyre on 27 May 1951, five years to the day after his first encounter with Artaud. He was buried at Bolbec on 1 June of the same year. 

Tobias Freeman teaches theology and philosophy in the south of France. He translates from French, Swedish, and Russian.

Karolina Urbaniak is a multimedia artist and co-founder of Infinity Land Press. She lives and works in London. 

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