Louis-René des Forêts - A series of connected, loosely chronological, imagistic reflections that form an emotional history, Ostinato is neither poetry nor prose. Rather, it is a kind of antibiography, in which the facts of this life are less important than the style in which they are rendered. What is there to tell that matters? Neither history, nor memory, but emotions. It is not the events that make this work possible to understand but the work that gives the life its form and its music


Louis-René des Forêts, Ostinato, Trans. by Mary Ann Caws, Bison Books, 2002.       read it at Google Books



Written over an extended period, Ostinato is the long-awaited autobiography of Louis-René des Forêts, one of France's most beloved writers. A few sections of this remarkable text have been published in fragments over the years, and then, with some reluctance on the part of the author, as a series of fragments in France in 1997.
The ostinato-a persistently repeated musical figure or rhythm-is a continual, stubborn, and essential element of certain musical pieces and of the life that emerges in this book. A series of connected, loosely chronological, imagistic reflections that form an emotional history, Ostinato is neither poetry nor prose. Rather, it is a kind of antibiography, in which the facts of this life are less important than the style in which they are rendered. What is there to tell that matters? Neither history, nor memory, but emotions. It is not the events that make this work possible to understand but the work that gives the life its form and its music.


Louis-René des Forêts (1918–2000) lived in Paris. He was best known for his novels and poetry and was awarded the Grand Prix National des Lettres for the entirety of his work.

"Memory, untiring memory that multiplies its illusions with a perverse art, memory turbulent as a child running from room to room": style is substance in award-winning French novelist and poet Louis-Ren des Forts's (1918-2000) episodic and inventive autobiography (in the loosest definition of the term) Ostinato. Imagistic paragraphs follow one another with the dream-logic of a ghazal, and the power of emotions becomes the note struck again and again (the title means a musical figure insistently repeated). CUNY professor Mary Ann Caws translates and prefaces a volume that shies away from concrete dates and details, but relishes in the most profound sensations of the author's life. - Publishers Weekly


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Louis-René des Forêts, Poems of Samuel Wood, Trans. by Anthony Barnett. Allardyce Books, 2011.

POEMS OF SAMUEL WOOD is a meditation on the mysteries of life and language and loss of others and the approaching loss of self by Louis-René des Forêts (1918-2000), author of The Children's Room and Ostinato, co-founder of the review L'Éphémère and a painter of the fantastic.

Poems of Samuel Wood, originally published in French by Fata Morgana in1988, is Louis-René Des Forêts’ meditation on life, language and mortality. Allardyce Book have followed Fata Morgana in producing a work of art in both form and in content.
Louis-René Des Forêts (1918–2000) uses the character of Samuel Wood to distance himself from his own thoughts on death and the act of writing. At the heart of this long monologue are the double voices of the poet and his imaginary character:
Samuel, Samuel, is it really your voice I hear
Emanating as if from the depths of a tomb
To reinforce my own in its struggle with sentences . . .

We are introduced to a dark and claustrophobic picture of the poet as insomniac trying to create meaning: ‘making his little gnawing noises, . . . /He is searching, blindly searching, but searching.’
One of the main thrusts of the poem is a Beckettian debate about ‘the pitfalls of language’ where the poet: ‘. . . hunches himself over a narrow strip of field/ As an animal hollows out a hole, he will make it his grave.’
In this nightmarish world the lost beloved alternates between ‘. . . this woman sitting on a window ledge / . . . her fingers gloved in red?’ and a figure ‘standing smiling/ Amid the asters and the roses’.
Barnett draws on echoes of Shakespeare to translate passages in which the narrator confronts mortality and makes a plea to:
Withdraw wisely as an old actor in his declining years
Leaves the stage . . .
Strutting the boards, fretting ineffectual words. . . 

In this night of insomnia we are at first ‘stupefied beneath the burning sun . . . drown under its blinding light’ but as the monologue progresses, and perhaps dawn begins to break, the sun becomes ‘glorious’ or ‘the morning friend who pushes us out of bed’.
Ultimately the poem finds a reluctant acceptance of mortality as the narrator advises himself to: ‘Rather look at the birds sailing across the sun/ Listen to their evening concert in the woods . . .’
The creative act may be ‘nothing but a fabricated shadow’ yet:
even after it has lost its meaning
Its timbre still resonates in the distance like a storm
No one can tell is approaching or passing.

Barnett’s translation offers an English reader an insight into an intriguing French poet. - Ali Thurm

The Children's Room - Louis Rene Des Forets

Louis-René des Forêts, The children's Room, Trans. by Jean Stewart, Calder, 1963.


John T. Naughton, Louis-René Des Forêts  

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