Thursday, August 11, 2016


B E N J A M I N     F O N D A N E

Poet and Shadow


to P.L. Flouquet

I've walked behind someone — and it was not Him.
That was no real street,
a street right away leading to another street
and that one in its turn
to another wider street, and then another, even wider —
and suddenly the dancing lights gushed in all directions . . .

I walked on, I feared that it was not Him:
this was no real presence,
a life which right away trails off into another life
and that one in its turn to
an unknown life even more on fire, and then more than on fire —
and suddenly this lurid collapse, Love . . .

He went on advancing — and it was not Him.
I followed him. I was two steps from his shadow.
It was a slow pursuit,
so slow and so far outside of time
that the morning sky suddenly displayed its swamps
and that the roosters were strangled
and exploded into the center of the sun,

a huge real sun which kissed me on the lips.

translated by Leonard Schwartz


Fondane was a Romanian Jew who emigrated to France in 1923 to pursue his love of
French poetry and culture. In Paris he worked at an insurance company and for
Paramount Pictures while establishing himself as a poet and a leading exponent of
existential philosophy. In 1944, he was deported from France and killed at Auschwitz.

B E N J A M I N     F O N D A N E (1898-1944)
Cinepoems and Others
edited by Leonard Schwartz
New York Review of Books 2016