"I shall say of these sonnets that they are poignant and inaccessible, and yet direct and uncontrived. I shall speak of these sonnets for those who long to learn more about the man, and so might be in danger of closing this volume without sensing this low murmur of ourselves, without recognising this deep-buried fire...
"I shall say of these sonnets that not only are they born in fetters, but they are the negation of those fetters; and not only is the poet a son of France, but in these poems can be heard singing, too, the voice of France herself. And I beseech you to hear it."
Jean Cassou wrote the thirty-three sonnets which Aragon admired so much and which form the first part of this collection in a Vichy prison between December 1941 and February 1942, in the dark, half a sonnet per night, committed to memory and only written down when a few days before his provisional release he was allowed some books, a pencil and some sheets of paper.
Through his fine and thoughtful translation of these sonnets and a selection of Cassou's later poems, Timothy Adès gives us the opportunity of discovering an unfamiliar - and now historical - poetic voice.
Parallel text, French / English