French Writer Michel Butor (Photo via aucoindelaruedelenfer.com)

“Every word written is a victory against death,” says French writer Michel Butor (Photo via aucoindelaruedelenfer.com)

 

According to The New York Review of Books, only 3 to 5 percent of books published in the U.S. are translations. Whether this is the result of American isolationism, or commercial practicalities is a subject for debate, but it’s hard not to wonder what literary gems we’re missing in this country.

Gwarlingo has featured a fair number of poetry translation projects: Russian poets Anzhelina PolonskayaMarina Tsvetaeva, and Gennadi Aygi, the fascinating micrograms of Jorge Carrera Andrade, Japanese haiku master Kobayashi Issa, and Korean Zen Master Chin’gak Kuksa Hyesim.

To this diverse roster, we now add French poet, novelist, and essayist Michel Butor. This translation and introduction by Jeffrey Gross is a Gwarlingo exclusive. To the best of Gross’s knowledge, La Banlieue de l’Aube à l’Aurore (The Suburbs from Dawn to Daybreak) has never been translated into English.

An original copy of Michel Butor's La banlieue de l'aube à l'aurore

An original 1968 copy of Michel Butor’s La Banlieue de l’Aube à l’Aurore

Only 810 copies of La Banlieue de l’Aube à l’Aurore were printed by Fata Morgana press in 1968, so the book is exceedingly rare. As this photo shows, the design and engravings by French artist Bernard Dufour are quite exceptional. (You can see more drawings when viewing the complete text here.)

Because of the literary significance of Gross’s translation, I’m offering today’s Sunday Poem in two versions—the complete poem, as well as this excerpt. You may prefer to merely dip your toe into Butor’s impressionistic text, or you may prefer full immersion, opting instead to read The Suburbs from Dawn to Daybreak in its entirety. The choice is yours.

Also included is an extensive essay about Butor’s poem written by Gross. A special thanks to Jeffrey for sharing this work exclusively with Gwarlingo readers.