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The Song of the Dead

Pierre Reverdy | Translated by Dan Bellm | Black Square Editions | July 2016

French poet Pierre Reverdy was born in Narbonne in 1889. In 1910 he came to Paris, where he knew no one, but he soon met Guillaume Apollinaire and Max Jacob, as well as Picasso, Braque, and Juan Gris., who later illustrated his books. During World War I he edited Nord-Sud, a review that published Apollinaire and Jacob, along with the work of Breton, Tzara, Aragon, Soupault, Huidobro, and Cocteau. In 1926 Reverdy left Paris for the village of Salesmen, renowned for its monastery choir, where he lived until his death in 1960.

Written in the aftermath of World War II in northern France, where Reverdy was a partisan in the Resistance movement, The Song of the Dead is a remarkable document of dissociation and shattering, refraining from documentary or narrative in favor of revealing troubled states of soul.

Reverse’s sure command of image amidst the emotional atmosphere of life-in-death in postwar France creates a work of strange eloquence and grandeur. The Song of the Dead was first published in 1948, in a handwritten edition with one hundred twenty five color lithographs by Pablo Picasso.

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