Stéfan, Jude 1930-
STÉFAN, Jude 1930-
PERSONAL: Born 1930, in Pont-Audemer, France.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Gallimard, 5 rue Sebastien-Bottin, Paris 75328, France.
CAREER: Professor of French, Latin, and Greek; writer.
Cyprès, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1967.
Libères, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1970.
Vie de mon frère, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1973.
Idylles suivi de Cippes, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1973.
La crevaison: (nouvelles), Gallimard (Paris, France), 1976.
Aux chiens du soir: poèmes en titre, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1979.
Lettres tombales: (ad familiares), Le temps qu'il fait (Cognac, France), 1983.
Suites slaves, Ryôan-ji (Marseilles, France), 1983.
Les accidents: nouvelles (ou variations), Ryôan-ji (Marseilles, France), 1984.
Laures: poèmes, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1984.
Les ogresses, musical score with Luciano Sampaoli, Luisè (Rimini, Italy), 1985.
Gnomiques, ou, De l'inconsolation, Le Temps qu'il Fait (Cognac, France), 1985.
Alme Diane, Le Temps qu'il Fait (Cognac, France), 1986.
Les états du corps: nouvelle (ou Variations II), Champ Vallon (Seyssel, France), 1986.
Faux journal, Le Temps qu'il Fait (Cognac, France), 1986.
Dialogues avec la soeur, Champ Vallon (Seyssel, France), 1987.
Dialogue des figures, Champ Vallon (Seyssel, France), 1988.
À la vieille parque, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1989.
Litanies du scribe, Le Temps qu'il Fait (Cognac, France), 1989.
De Catulle: et vingt transcriptions (translations), Le Temps qu'il fait (Cognac, France), 1990.
Stances, ou 52 contre-haï-ku, Le Temps qu'il fait (Cognac, France), 1991.
La fête de la patronne: nouvelles ou variations III, Champ Vallon (Seyssel, France), 1991.
Xénies, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1992.
Scholies: notes et notules, Le Temps qu'il fait (Cognac, France), 1992.
Le nouvelliste: nouvelles ou variations IV, Champ Vallon (Seyssel, France), 1993.
Epitomé, ou, Chrestomathie à l'usage des débutants en littérature, Le Temps qu'il Fait (Cognac, France), 1993.
Elégiades; suivi de deux méditations: poèmes, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1993.
Senilia, Le temps qu'il fait (Cognac, France), 1994.
Prosopées: poèmes, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1995.
Scènes dernières: "histoires de vie-mort," ou, Variations V, Champ Vallon (Seyssel, France), 1995.
Variété VI: huit entretiens, quatre traductions, trois lettres, deux dialogues, onze notes, Le Temps qu'il Fait (Cognac, France), 1995.
Chronique catoniques, La Table ronde (Paris, France), 1996.
Silles: journal de lettres, Le Temps qu'il Fait (Cognac, France), 1997.
Povrésies, ou 65 poèmes autant d'années, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1997.
PrOsÈMES, L'Instant Perpétuel (Rouen, France), 1997, 1998.
Variations, VI, vie de Saint, Champ Vallon (Seyssel, France), 1998.
Epodes, ou, poèmes de la désuétude, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1999.
Variété VII, Le Temps qu'il Fait (Cognac, France), 1999.
Génitifs: poèmes, Gallimard (Paris, France), 2001.
SIDELIGHTS: Jude Stéfan's interest in classical languages has influenced not only the work he has chosen to do—he has published translations of classics as well as taught these languages—but also the voice in which he speaks through his poetry, fiction, and other writings.
Several themes run through his work, perhaps the most dominant of which is cynicism. As John Taylor pointed out in a piece on Stéfan's Faux journal for Review of Contemporary Fiction, this is expressed by his warning "in the epigraph to Faux journal that all diaries are faux: 'false,' 'fake,' 'phony.'" The reviewer continued, "In the 'diary' itself he excoriates 'the unbearable style employed in [them], when the only person concerned notes for others matters which interest him alone ('saw X again, who seemed to have changed a lot,' 'met Z at the reception,' etc)."
Taylor also stressed that Stéfan's writing "is impregnated with classical literature and rhetoric; his experimenting with the French language is all the more intrepid for his learnèd sense of moderation. Rhythm, syntax, diction: these are the elements of style to which Stéfan applies his originality."
In a Times Literary Supplement review of Stéfan's Idylles suivi de Cippes, Jean Tortel wrote, "A dense and tormented syntax, a diction that has overtones of some previous but timeless century, and an apparently arbitrary but really very carefully calculated method of amputating his lines in mid-phrase, so that they often end on an apostrophe or a hyphen: these are techniques that lend force to his basic themes of rampant Eros and ghoulish Thanatos." The reviewer continued, "Within the limits of his subject-matter M. Stéfan is a powerful poet. It is true that his theme is primal, but one none the less wonders if it is not time for his inspiration to be broadened a little."
John Taylor, writing in French Review about Les états du corps: nouvelle (ou Variations II), noted, "Jude Stéfan's latest collection of short stories, Les états du corps, though organized in its own right around the theme of aging—the narrative or main character is successively twelve, sixteen, twenty, twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five, forty, fifty and seventy years old, before becoming a 'legend'—nonetheless deploys a variety of styles and textual forms, narrates from a variety of perspectives, evokes a variety of emotions, thus suggesting that rich variety of 'bodily states' which come and go in the course of a lifetime."
One of Stéfan's "frequent themes," the reviewer pointed out, "his relationship with his sister, her suicide" is pursued in the story "Histoire de la Muse" from that collection. In it "she tells him one day while he is sitting in the garden", the reviewer wrote, "'Il faudra que tu écrives, plus tard,' (you must write about this later on). 'Mais quoi?' (But why?) the poet asks, to which she replies, 'Toi, nous' or 'you (in the intimate form), us.'"
Writing about Laures: poèmes in French Review, Carol L. Kaplan commented, "Death lurks most always behind Stéfan's images of woman. Indeed his short poems may be compared to the small, portable mirrors found in Renaissance paintings in which people, especially women, looked at their reflections and were unable to perceived the true state of their corporeal existences, that is, the skeleton behind their temporal beauty."
Reviewing the same volume in World Literature Today, John T. Naughton began enthusiastically: "Here is a serious book of poetry. Learned, technically accomplished, wide-ranging and varied in its exploration of human limitation and defeat, Jude Stéfan's Laures evokes Western man at the outermost edge of his his tory—in 'la scène finale.'"
The critic continued, "The title [Laures] gives a sense of the book's complexity and import, for the French word laure is both the name of the beloved, lastingly celebrated by Plutarch, and the designation for the secluded sanctuaries of the monasteries of the East. Furthermore, the homophone l'or suggests the (alchemical) gold of poetic research, and laurier thepoet's laurel wreath."
Naughton summed up much of the general critical feeling about the poet's work when he concluded, "Bookish and despairing, Stéfan's poem, with its antecedents in Villon and Scève and in certain dimensions of Baudelaire and Rimbaud, among others, provokes a vivid and memorable example of one of the faces of the present state of poetic expression: aware of its past, conscious of its futility, unresigned to its defeat."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
French Review, number 2, 1986, Carol L. Kaplan, review of Laures: poèmes, p. 298; April, 1988, John Taylor, review of Les états du corps: nouvelle (ou Variations II), p. 841.
Review of Contemporary Fiction, summer, 1988, John Taylor, review of Faux Journal, p. 331.
Times Literary Supplement, June 1, 1973, Jean Tortel, review of Idylles suivi de Cippes, p. 610.
World Literature Today, winter, 1986, John T. Naughton, review of Laures, p. 70.*