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Michael Syrotinski's translation of The Flowers of Tarbes by Jean Paulhan (the introduction to which is online here at RSB) got a decent, small review, courtesy of Steven Poole, at the Guardian last Saturday. We'll be interviewing Professor Syrotinski here at RSB very soon.


A sign at the entrance to a park says it is forbidden to carry flowers inside. The crass authoritarianism of such a stricture (the idea is that anyone actually carrying flowers must have picked them from the park itself) prompts the French literary critic Jean Paulhan to a scintillating essay on commonplace expressions, language and rhetoric that was first published in 1941 and should still give pause to contemporary writers eager to declare war on cliché ... The argument is playful and urbanely self-contradicting at every turn ... I especially liked the author's sober admiration of a poet "for whom poetry seems so serious that he has taken the decision to stop writing it". Most pleasingly, he ends up running rhetorical circles around himself, confessing that he was a "terrorist" all along and pleading with the reader to act as though he had said nothing. One hopes that Paulhan continues the conversation somewhere with the shades of literary giants, carrying as many flowers as he wishes.

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