Gestures toward the Sacred
The French poet Bernard Vargaftig (1934–2012), first known in 1960s literary circles as a writer mentored by Aragon, published regularly and served on the editorial boards of Action poétique and Europe. His poetry foregrounds identity and alterity, eros and notions of self, an immediate present and an onrushing past. This book examines Vargaftig’s evolution and aims. It explores his postwar search for self-acceptance, ontological rootedness and shared forward paths. Using close readings of his poetry and prose, complemented by his comments in interviews, the book particularly considers his emphasis on the sacredness of words. His spiritual yearnings, as well as a need to heal due to lingering trauma from wartime hiding, are shown to underlie his focus on allusive imagery, recurring motifs and compact structures, where silence and sound interweave. Comparative analyses are used to show how his enthusiasm for the female Other attunes us to interpersonal bonds and to the outer world’s creative surge. The study of Vargaftig through the lens of gestures toward the sacred thus highlights poetry as a healing ritual, one that facilitates not only immersion in emotion and sensation, but also a continual process of renewal and self-discovery.
Introduction Identity, Alterity, Childhood
Identity, Alterity, Childhood
This study examines the evolution and aims of French poet Bernard Vargaftig (1934–2012), particularly explorations of self and Other in his poetry and prose. His compact, allusive structures highlight breath patterns and abrupt imagery, silence and sound. Their elan toward the female Other situates us within the outer world’s creative surge. Their ritualized embrace of the real through words as gestures allows us to experience the aliveness and intimacy of the here and now. As a postwar literary figure, Vargaftig emblematizes a search for healing and self-acceptance, for ontological rootedness and shared forward paths. As a child survivor of wartime hiding, he brings an authentic voice to expressions of future promise, in his poetry generally as well as in his two prose volumes that emphasize life writing, Un même silence (2000) and Aucun signe particulier (2007). Throughout his oeuvre, he questions identity, foregrounds eros and alterity, confronts post-Shoah History and uses poetic naming to suggest forward movement. By valuing difference and interpersonal relationships, Vargaftig rebuilds the sacredness of human bonds and facilitates social and spiritual change.
Prolific throughout his life and important in French letters from the 1960s onward, Vargaftig is best known in the popular imagination as a protégé of Louis Aragon (1897–1982). Aragon got him a foothold in December 1965 by organizing a public reading at the Théâtre Récamier that included Jacques Garelli, André Libérati, Maurice Regnaut, Jacques Roubaud and Vargaftig....
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