Jules Supervielle is a modest, but very personal French poet, novelist and dramatist. His realm is the dream.

Frederick Lehner
Jules Supervielle

Jules Supervielle

Born in Montevideo of French parents in 1884, Jules Supervielle was raised by wealthy relatives after being orphaned at an early age. He showed an early interest in writing and completed his first work, Brumes du passe by 1900. An enthusiastic student, Supervielle could not decide between law, political science, art, languages (he was proficient in Italian, English and Portuguese) and literature—to which he finally devoted his whole life. In 1910 he published his second work, Comme des voiliers as well as fragments of what could have been his thesis, but his writing career was interrupted by World War I and Supervielle was drafted into the French army. Because of ill health, he was able to avoid active duty, and at the War’s end he resumed writing. He made frequent trips to Uruguay where he found he could write prolifically and without distraction. When he finished Poems de L’humour triste (1919), Gide and Valery began corresponding with him. He attended Jacques Riviere’s “Wednesday Salon” and as published in the Nouvelle Revue Francaise which M. Riviere headed at the time. Supervielle was introduced to Paulhan in 1927 and was greatly influenced by his work. Michaux and Marcel Arland were also among his close friends during this period. He died in 1960.

cover image of the book Selected Writings of Jules Supervielle

Selected Writings of Jules Supervielle

This is the first presentation in depth of the work of one of the most influential writers of modern France, Jules Supervielle (1884-1960). Up to now, only an occasional selection has appeared in an anthology, and he is still little known to American readers. Yet Supervielle is one of the unique creators of our time. His fables have the clear-eyed, slightly wry vision of the intelligent child. His poems have a Iucidity of language that throws new light on each word, each thought. In his novel The Man Who Stole Children, complete in this volume, he uses the fantastic premise that a child uncared for by its parents may simply be picked up off the street and adopted, to illuminate man’s problems of human behavior and emotion. Supervielle in his poetry and prose, as in his personal influence on other writers, is quiet, unassuming, matter-of-fact. There is a quietness, too, almost an impersonality about his approach to life and the events of every day. His poems are statements and almost never is there the fireworks of imagery or startling figure of speech that one associates with some twentieth-century schools of writing. Throughout his work may be felt the vast spaces of Uruguay, where he was born, and of the sea, a pervading symbol. This edition contains eight of his stories. translated by Enid McLeod, more than forty of his poems with French text en face translated by James Kirkup, Denise Levertov, and Kenneth Rexroth, and the complete novel, Le Voleur d’enfants, translated by Alan Pryce-Jones.

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Jules Supervielle is a modest, but very personal French poet, novelist and dramatist. His realm is the dream.

Frederick Lehner
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