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
Death Poems by Jacques Prevel
Out 1st October 2023
Hardcover, 92 pages, 190 x 148mm
Release date: 1st October 2023