“There is another world and it is in this one.”—Paul Éluard
Paul Éluard’s Capital of Pain (Capitale de la douleur ) appeared in 1926 and established his reputation as the preeminent French surrealist poet.
Éluard’s surrealist vision is illuminated by a painter’s eye; his imagery includes light, surfaces, reflections, sunlight, mirrors, halos and radiance, although he deploys them to evoke suffering, despair and emptiness. Details of the poet’s personal life are found in this collection’s two-part central poem, “In the Flame of the Whip.” Each line crackles with irrepressible power – resembling the criss-cross lash marks left on human flesh by the whip.
Both sides of the mirror are exposed in Capital of Pain – the reflective surface and the tain on its reverse side. The mirror is, of course, Éluard himself, because, as the collection’s title suggests, it reveals the poet’s private anguish and personal agony.
Paul Éluard was a dedicated and devoted surrealist who championed the juxtaposition of distinct elements and the play of dualities which give surrealist poetry its profundity and vitality. As readers, we are fortunate he chose to expose the mysterious and hidden aspects of his life with lyrical brilliance.
“…it is gratifying to find a collection of Paul Éluard’s poetry translated into English by R. J. Dent, and published (with a glorious cover!) by Black Scat Books – one of the last publishers to keep the flag of Olympia, Éditions Jean-Jacques Pauvert and Grove Press flying, with new writing as well as classics of Surrealism, the Absurd, Dada, Erotica and ‘Pataphysics…. All in all, Dent, a poet and novelist in his own right, demonstrates clearly the truth of the old maxim, it takes a poet to translate a poet.” —Reese Saxment, Surrealerpool
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Capital of Pain
Translated from the French by R J Dent
paperback; 132 pp., $14
Anna Karina holding Éluard’s Capitale de la douleur in
Godard’s classic film Alphaville.