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Bernard Vargaftig

Gestures toward the Sacred


Aaron Prevots

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.

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Chapter 6 Memory Work and Sacred Bonds in Un même silence and Aucun signe particulier


Chapter 6

Memory Work and Sacred Bonds in Un même silence and Aucun signe particulier

The prose volumes Un même silence (2000) and Aucun signe particulier (2007), which primarily discuss childhood and youth, mark a transition in Vargaftig’s oeuvre while highlighting continuities. Motifs interspersed throughout his poetry – shame and fear, motion and flight – prove to have unmistakable origins in childhood hurdles. Though these hurdles would be limiting as a sole critical lens, the narrative threads they bring to these two prose collections shed light on the psychological weight Vargaftig bears as a post-Shoah child survivor. These narrative threads take shape in relation to times and places past and present. They nuance his beloved’s companionship regarding an intensely lived present, one that involves a lifetime of dialogue, empathy, mutual discovery, physical attraction, acceptance of differences, and emotional support. They help explain his life’s work, from early archival inédits, to the texts published in Chez moi partout and La Véraison focused on love and identity, to his gradually more abstract works, which connect explorations of self and Other to shifting, fragmented landscapes and the enigmatic circulation of poetic signs. As with his interviews, we better grasp language’s foundational role as what allows self-Other relationships to flourish, as a key to alterity and always renewed bonds. In terms of poetic saying as a lifetime’s artistic search, Vargaftig’s prose conveys the mutuality and contradictions of his endeavours, the challenges faced in his relationship to language as...

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