Kahn, Gustave

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KAHN, GUSTAVE (1859–1936), French poet and author. Kahn, who was born in Metz, was one of the outstanding poets of the Symbolist movement and, with Jules Laforgue, is considered the inventor of vers libre (free verse), which uses mixed rhythms, especially of common speech. His Premiers poèmes (1897) included "Les palais nomades" (1887), "Chansons d'amant" (1891), and "Le Domaine de fée" (1895). An admirer of Baudelaire and Verlaine, Kahn was also an art critic, and he sponsored the review Vogue. He published essays on French painters, including "François Boucher" (1905), "Jean-Honoré Fragonard" (1907), and "Fantin-Latour" (1926). Kahn also wrote a work of criticism entitled Symbolistes et décadents (1902), and a few novels. Though generally remote from Jewish communal affairs, he became an enthusiastic advocate of the Zionist cause, which was, in his opinion, a romantic, heroic, and mystical form of Judaism. These sympathies inspired his Contes juifs (1926), Vieil Orient, Orient neuf (1928), Images bibliques (1929), and Terre d'Israël (1933). For many years Kahn edited the Menorah, a French Zionist periodical and, after his death, his manuscripts were deposited at the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem.


Univers Israélite (Sept. 11, 1936); H. Talvart and J. Place, Bibliographie des auteurs modernes de langue française, 10 (1950), 213–23; J.C. Ireson, Oeuvre poétique de Gustave Kahn (1962).

[Moshe Catane]

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