The Art and Genius of Anne Hébert: Essays on Her Works: Night and the Day Are One

By Janis L. Pallister | Go to book overview

Introduction

JANIS L. PALLISTER


COMMENTARY ON HÉBERT AND ON THIS ANTHOLOGY

Few are the critics who would not agree that the works of Anne Hébert are characterized by a sometimes brutal, sometimes violent realism; by an appeal to all the senses at once; by a propensity for the mythic, the chthonic, and the oneiric, doubtless arising from her inner life; and by their portrayal of the powerful thrust and undertow of psychic interactions—by all this and by considerations of the sociological and political as well.1

The fact is that this brutal realism, along with the power of Hébert's imagery and the evocative nature of her vocabulary, renders her poetry, if not also her prose, so rich as to possess unfathomable profundity and to remain, among other things, virtually untranslatable. Indeed, Frank Scott's elaborations on why, in translating Le Tombeau des rois, he chose first the "recombent dead" (sic) and then finally "sculptured dead" to render the word gisants (Hébert and Scott 1970, 96–97) are, in the long run, somewhat silly: translations of Hébert's work are always lacking, Scott's perhaps most of all.2

On the other hand, we would assert that the explications and commentaries of the scholars represented in this present collection of essays will expand the reader's appreciation of the text, whether it be in the original French or in translation.

Indeed, the essays in this collection bear testimony not only to the greatness of Anne Hébert, whose works are plumbed and explored here for their deepest meanings, their subtle art, and their application to lived realities of our own, but also to the wide range of her readership. Though we recognize that it is a question of academic commentary here, nonetheless one can readily see from the list of contributors that she appeals to male and

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