I do not know what in the hell Robert Duncan was talking about in regard to Robin Blaser’s translation of Gerard de Nerval’s Les Chimeres. Granted I cannot read French and have not read Duncan’s translation, so what do I know, but I can say that I found Blaser’s Les Chimeres (The Chimeras) masterful and moving. I plan on reading much more of his work in the future.
Graham Mackintosh translated Les Chimeres into print for Open Space in September 1965. The edition was 500 copies letterpress. Like Blaser’s translation, it is masterful. Purple wrappers with silver lettering. Red endpapers illustrated with the image of Saint Rosalia of Palermo. The majority of the text is in Janson. In the centerpiece of Nerval’s sonnet sequence and Blaser’s translation (Nerval himself made his reputation as a translator, particularly his translation of Goethe’s Faust), Christ Among the Olives, Christ’s words are printed in red.
Like The Moth Poem before it, every detail of the Open Space Les Chimeres speaks volumes. On one level, the wrapper and endpapers translate the line “Rose with a heart of purple” from Artemis. Saint Rosalia was a hermit, the saint of the abyss, who searched for God in solitude mirroring Christ alone amongst the olives in the following poem. The red endpapers and red type are printed in the blood of Christ as contrasted with the Tyrian purple of the Roman emperor Tiberius. Gerard de Nerval believed he was descended from the Roman emperor Nerva. Yet the purple wrapper can also be seen as a translation of a bishop’s outer purple robe, or chimere. Thus the Open Space Les Chimeres as object is as free and open as Blaser’s translation. Interestingly, Tyrian purple dye is created from mollusks which are exposed to sunlight. Alas my copy sat in the sun, which reversed the process.