Bonnefoy, Yves 1923-

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BONNEFOY, Yves 1923-

PERSONAL: Born July 24, 1923, in Tours, France; son of Elie and Hélène (Maury) Bonnefoy; married Lucille Vine, 1968; children: Mathilde. Education: University of Paris, degree in philosophy.

ADDRESSES: Home—63 Rue Lepic, 75018 Paris, 18, France. Offıce—Collège de France, 11 Place Marcelin-Berthelot, 75005 Paris, France.

CAREER: Writer and poet. University Center, Vincennes, France, associate professor, 1969-70; University of Nice, Nice, France, associate professor, 1973-76; Provence University, Aix-en-Provence, France, associate professor, 1979-81; Collège de France, Paris, professor of comparative poetics, 1981—. Has taught literature at various universities, including Brandeis, 1962-64, City University of New York, Johns Hopkins University, Princeton University, Yale University, and Geneva University. Cofounder of L'éphémère (art and literature journal), 1967.

AWARDS, HONORS: Prix de l' Express, for Hier régnant désert and L'Improbable, 1958; Cecil Hemly Award, 1967, for On the Motion and Immobility of Douve; Prix des Critiques, 1971; Prix Montaigne, 1978; named honorary fellow, Modern Language Association, 1981; Grand Prix de Poesie, Académie Française, 1981; Grand Prix Société des gens de Lettres, 1987; Bennett Award, Hudson Review, 1988; Bourse Goncourt, 1991; Prix Balzan, 1995; Prix Del Duca, 1995; Prix national de Poésie, 1996; Mutsuoko Shiki Prize, 2000; honorary degrees from University of Chicago, American University, Edinburgh University, Trinity College, and others.


Du mouvement et de l'immobilitè de Douve, Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1953, translation by Galway Kinnell published as On the Motion and Immobility of Douve, Ohio University Press (Athens, OH), 1968.

Peintures murales de la France gothique (title means "Mural Paintings of Gothic France"), P. Hartmann (Paris, France), 1954.

Hier régnant desert (title means "In Yesterday's Desert Realm"), Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1958.

L'Improbable (title means "The Improbable"), Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1959.

La Seconde Simplicité (title means "The Second Simplicity"), Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1961.

Rimbaud par lui-même, Seuil (Paris, France), 1961, translation by Paul Schmidt published as Rimbaud, Harper (New York, NY), 1973.

Anti-Plato (title means "Against Plato"), Maeght (Paris, France), 1962.

Mirò, La Bibliothèque des arts (Paris, France), 1964, translated by Judith Landry, Viking (New York, NY), 1967.

Pierre écrite, Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1965, bilingual edition with translation by Susanna Lang published as Pierre ecrite—Words in Stone, University of Massachusetts Press (Amherst, MA), 1976.

Un rêve fait à Mantoue (title means "A Dream Dreamt in Mantoue"), Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1967.

La Poésie française et le principe d'identité (title means "French Poetry and the Principle of Identity"), Maeght (Paris, France), 1967.

Selected Poems, translated by Anthony Rudolf, J. Cape (London, England), 1968.

Rome 1630: L'horizon du premier baroque (title means "Rome 1630: Early Baroque and Its Context"), Flammarion (Paris, France), 1970.

L'arrière-pays (title means "The Hinterland"), Editions d'Art Albert Skira (Geneva, Switzerland), 1972.

L'Ordalie (title means "The Ordeal"), Maeght (Paris, France), 1975.

Dans le leurre du seuil (title means "In the Lure of the Threshold"), Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1975.

Rue traversière (title means "The Cross Street"), Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1977.

Le Nuage rouge (title means "The Red Cloud"), Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1977.

Poèmes, Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1978, translation by Richard Pevear published as Poems, 1959-1975, Random House (New York, NY), 1985.

The Origin of Language, G. Nama (New York, NY), 1980.

Entretiens sur la poésie, La Baconnière (Neuchâtel, Switzerland), 1980.

La Presence et l'Image, Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1983.

Things Dying, Things Newborn, translated by Anthony Rudolf, Menard Press (London, England), 1986.

La Véritè de Parole, Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1988.

The Act and the Place of Poetry: Selected Essays, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1989.

Entretiens sur la Poèsie, Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1990.

In the Shadow's Light, translated by John Naughton, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1990.

Early Poems, 1947-1959, translated by Galway Kinnell and Richard Pevear, Ohio University Press (Athens, OH), 1991.

Alberto Giacometti: A Biography of His Work, translated by Jean Stewart, Abbeville Press (New York, NY), 1991, translated by Charles Penwarden, Assouline (New York, NY), 2001.

Mythologies (two volumes), translated under the direction of Wendy Doniger, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1991.

Roman and European Mythologies, translated by Gerald Honigsblum and Wendy Doniger, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1992.

Greek and Egyptian Mythologies, translated by Gerald Honigsblum, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1992.

Asian Mythologies, translated by Wendy Doniger and Gerald Honigsblum, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1993.

American, African, and Old European Mythologies, translated by Wendy Doniger and Gerald Honigsblum, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1993.

New and Selected Poems, translated by John T. Naughton and Anthony Rudolf, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1995.

Dessin, Couleur, et Lumière, Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1995.

La Vie errante, Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1995.

The Lure and the Truth of Painting: Selected Essays on Art, translated by Richard Howard Stamelman, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1995.

Shakespeare et Yeats, Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1998.

Lieux et destins de l'image: Un cours de poétique au Collège de France, 1981-1993, Seuil (Paris, France), 1999.

La Communauté des traducteurs, Presses de l'Universitè de Strasbourg (Strasbourg, France), 2000.

Baudelaire: la Tentation de l'oubli, Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France), 2000.

Le Coeur-espace: 1945, 1961, Farrago (Tours, France), 2001.

Les Planches courbes, Mercure de France (Paris, France), 2001.

Poésie et Architecture, W. Blake (Bordeaux, France), 2001.

Le Théâtre des Enfants, W. Blake (Bordeaux, France), 2001.

Remarques sur le Regard: Picasso, Giacometti, Morandi: L'art en France entre les Deux Guerres, Calmann-Lévy (Paris, France), 2002.

Sous l'horizon du Langage, Mercure de France (Paris, France), 2002.

(With others) L'oeuvre et Son Ombre: Que Peut la Littérature secondaire, Fallois (Paris, France), 2002.

L'arbre Au-delà des images, W. Blake (Bordeaux, France), 2003.

The Horizon, translated by Michael Bishop, Editions VVV Editions (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 2003.

In the Lure of Language, translated by Michael Bishop, Editions VVV Editions (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 2003.

Le poète et "le Flot Mouvant des Multitudes": Paris pour Nerval et pour Baudelaire, Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Paris, France), 2003.

Shakespeare & the French Poet, edited and with an introduction by John Naughton, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2004.


William Shakespeare, Henri IV, Jules César, Hamlet, Le Conte d'hiver, Venus et Adonis, [and] Le Viol de Lucrece (also see below), Club Francais du Livre (Paris, France), 1957-60.

William Shakespeare, Jules César, Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1960.

William Shakespeare, Hamlet (also see below), Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1962.

William Shakespeare, Le Roi Lear (also see below), Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1965.

William Shakespeare, Roméo et Juliette, Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1968.

William Shakespeare, Hamlet [and] Le Roi Lear, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1978.

William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1983.

William Butler Yeats, Quarante-cinq poèmes de W. B. Yeats, Hermann (Paris, France), 1989.

William Shakespeare, Les Poèmes de Shakespeare, Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1993.

John Donne, Trois des derniers poèmes, Folles Avoine (Bédée, France), 1994.

William Shakespeare, XXIV Sonnets de Shakespeare, Les Bibliophiles de France (Paris, France), 1994.

William Shakespeare, Le Conte d'hiver, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1996.

William Shakespeare, La Tempête, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1997.

William Shakespeare, Antoine et Cléopâtre (bilingual edition, with an introduction and notes by Bonnefoy), edited by Gisèle Venet, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1999.


Contributor to Avec Yves Bonnefoy: De la poesie, edited by Francois Lallier, France Presses Universitaires de Vincennes, 2001. Contributor of numerous articles and essays to journals, including Journal of Beckett Studies, Review d'Histoire Litteraire de la France, L'Esprit Crèateur, Yale French Studies, Critical Inquiry, Nouvelle Revue Française, Critique, and New Literary History.

SIDELIGHTS: Yves Bonnefoy has been associated with the tradition of nineteenth-century French poets Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud, as well as with the postwar surrealists. A metaphysical poet, he is distinguished, according to Michael Hamburger in The Truth of Poetry, by the conviction that "poetry has to do with truth and with salvation." In a review of Galway Kinnell's translation of Du mouvement et de l'immobilité de Douve in Poetry, Ralph J. Mills, Jr. pointed out that "by general critical consensus Yves Bonnefoy is one of the finest poets to emerge in France since World War II."

Bonnefoy's first volume of poetry established his reputation. A sequence of short poems separated into several sections, Douve is a difficult work, described by Mills as "reminiscent in part of the hermetic qualities of Mallarmé and Valéry and others whose technique involves obliquity, spiritual plenitude and vacancy." "Douve" is a female principle, which Bonnefoy himself defined as the relationship between consciousness and nothingness. She variously represents earth, woman, love, and poetry. The progress of the poem portrays changing moods and metaphysical transformations and sets up dialectics such as mind/spirit, hope/despair, and life/death.

The publication of In the Shadow's Light and Early Poems: 1947-1959 reinforced Bonnefoy's reputation as a great postwar poet, one dedicated to crafting verses that embrace and envelop human feelings and emotions. "One cannot understand Bonnefoy," commented Stephen Romer in the Times Literary Supplement, "without grasping the absolute nature of his commitment to poetry as a redemptive agent." As Craig Crist-Evans put it in Bloomsbury Review, "Bonnefoy's is a poetry dedicated to the ways in which language, in all its fragmentation and metaphoric wonder, reflects the yearnings of modern man."

The difficulty of Bonnefoy's poetry arises in part from its remoteness from modern English and American poetry. Hamburger explained: "Its language functions in a radically different way, its movement proceeds in a radically different direction; and above all it assumes an order of pure ideas, or of pure subjectivity, that can be evoked poetically with a minimum of sensuous substantiation." These distinctions are reinforced by what Bonnefoy calls the "semitransparency" of French words, as contrasted with the earthy opaqueness of English. The translation of Early Poems, for instance, was an enormous undertaking. A Stand reviewer suggested that translators Galway Kinnell and Richard Pevear did "the best that could possibly be done in the face of these difficulties to give an account of Bonnefoy's journey of spiritual discovery and exploration."

Bonnefoy is a respected critic and scholar, as well as a poet, and has written essays on literature, art, and architecture. His translations of Shakespeare are considered to be among the best in French. Two non-poetic works from the early 1990s illustrate Bonnefoy's versatility. Alberto Giacometti: A Biography of His Work is a comprehensive study of the twentieth-century Italian artist (and friend of Bonnefoy). According to French Review contributor Adelia Williams, the author "provides his reader with a highly complex portrait of one of the art world's most intriguing giants, whose lifelong drive was to represent the meaning of life." Mythologies, an enormous and far-reaching survey of mythological and religious traditions compiled by Bonnefoy, was published in 1991. The 1,250-page two-volume set focuses mainly on the myths of the ancient or traditional societies of Africa, the Middle and Far East, the Mediterranean, England, and the Americas—notably excluding coverage of Judaic and Christian religious traditions. "Without claiming to be all-inclusive," noted Mark C. Taylor in the New York Times Book Review, "Mythologies demonstrates the richness of a particular mode of analysis that can be used to interpret any cultural tradition."

In the late 1990s, Bonnefoy published Shakespeare et Yeats and Lieux et destins de l'image: Un cours de poétique au Collège de France, 1981-1993, among other books. Reviewing Lieux et destins de l'image in World Literature Today, Allen Thiher commented, "Many would hold Bonnefoy to be the most important French poet alive today; so this collection is of no small attraction to all those interested in modern poetics." Richard Howard, reviewing The Lure and the Truth of Painting: Selected Essays on Art for Artforum, wrote, "scattered through all of these lofty, aerial essays there are enough occasions of splendid and spectacular insight, clarifications and apprehensions so striking (and so immediately evident) that I believe it is worth exhorting ourselves to bestow the energy of patience in this work."

The 2001 collection Les Planches courbes "brings home to us the affective and spiritual—in the largest sense of the word—urgency this writing continues to promote within and for all those who accede to it," stated Michael Bishop in World Literature Today. Shakespeare & the French Poet, a 2004 work, contains essays, critical interpretations, and an interview with Bonnefoy. "The value of this text lies in Bonnefoy's unique perspective as he comments on his approach to Shakespeare," observed Library Journal contributor Shana C. Fair.



Caws, Mary Anne, Yves Bonnefoy, Twayne (Boston, MA), 1984.

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 9, 1978, Volume 15, 1980.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 258: Modern French Poets, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2002.

Fink, Michèle, Yves Bonnefoy, le simple et le sens, Corti (Paris, France), 1989.

Gavronsky, Serge, Poems and Texts, October House (Stonington, CT), 1969.

Hamburger, Michael, The Truth of Poetry, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1970.

Kostelanetz, Richard, editor, Yale French Studies 21, Avon (New York, NY), 1958.

Naughton, John T., The Poetics of Yves Bonnefoy, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1984.

On Contemporary Literature, Avon (New York, NY), 1964.

Ravaud, Jacques, editor, Yves Bonnefoy, Le Temps qu'il fait (Cognac, France), 1998.

Stamelman, Richard, Lost Beyond Telling: Representations of Death and Absence in Modern French Poetry, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY) 1990.

Taylor, Jane, Double Vision: Studies in Literary Translation, University of Durham (Durham, England), 2002.

Thélot, Jérôme, Poètique d'Yves Bonnefoy, Droz (Geneva, Switzerland), 1983.

Thomas, Jean-Jacques, Concordance (Poems), Edwin Mellen Press (Lewiston, NY), 1989.


American Book Review, October, 1991, p. 16.

Artforum, summer, 1996, Richard Howard, review of The Lure and Truth of Painting: Selected Essays on Art, pp. S28-29.

Asian Folklore Studies, October, 1994, Taryo Obayashi, "Asian Mythologies," pp. 351-353.

Bloomsbury Review, September, 1991, p. 15.

Choice, October, 1991, p. 287.

Dalhousie French Studies, fall, 2002, pp. 1-129.

French Review, October, 1993, Adelia Williams, review of Alberto Giacometti: A Biography of His Work, p. 148.

L'Esprit Créateur, winter, 1982, pp. 15-82; summer, 1990, pp. 38-46; summer, 1992, pp. 43-64; fall, 1994, pp. 14-21; fall, 1996, pp. 1-105.

Library Journal, April 1, 1991, p. 124; September 15, 1991, p. 50; June 1, 2004, Shana C. Fair, review of Shakespeare & the French Poet, pp. 132-133.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, July 28, 1991, p. 11.

Magazine Littéraire, June, 2003, pp. 22-64.

New York Times Book Review, May 12, 1991, Mark C. Taylor, review of Mythologies, p. 37.

Paris Review, summer, 1994, Shusha Guppy, "Yves Bonnefoy: The Art of Poetry LXIX," pp. 108-133.

Poetry, January, 1969; June, 1976.

Publishers Weekly, January 11, 1991, p. 96; September 25, 1995, review of New and Selected Poems, p. 50.

Romance Notes, spring, 1992, James McAllister, "Yves Bonnefoy and John Constable," pp. 281-289.

Romanic Review, May 1, 1997, pp. 471-484.

Stand, autumn, 1992, pp. 154-157.

Symposium, summer, 1991, James McAllister, "The Image and the Furrow," pp. 97-108.

Times Literary Supplement, July 26, 1991, p. 18; October 25, 1991, p. 9.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), December 8, 1991, p. 6.

Wilson Library Bulletin, May, 1992, p. 114.

World Literature Today, summer, 1979; winter, 2001, Allen Thiher, review of Lieux et destins de l'image: Un cours de poétique au Collège de France, 1981-1993, p. 142; spring, 2002, Allen Thiher, review of Avec Yves Bonnefoy: De la poesie, p. 179; July-September, 2003, Michael Bishop, review of Les Planches courbes, pp. 76-77.


University of Chicago Press Web site, (August 19, 2004), John Naughton, "An Interview with Yves Bonnefoy from Shakespeare & the French Poet."*

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Bonnefoy, Yves 1923-

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