I don’t know whether I’ve expressed excitedly or lucidly enough my sense of this translation’s importance


Here’s how I read Mallarmé’s prose, in Barbara Johnson’s lustrous new English translation: painfully, dutifully, passionately, a sentence at a time, while holding the French original in my other hand, so I can compare her sentence with his sentence, and so I can measure as accurately as possible each crevice where an adjective meets a noun, a comma meets a dependent clause.

Mallarmé published Divagations (a collection of essays and other highly compact prose implosions) in 1897 and died the following year. English-speaking aficio­nados of Symbolist rarities have relied on Mary Ann Caws’s exquisite anthology Mallarmé in Prose (2001), which contains some of the pieces in Divagations. Now we have in English the whole of Divagations, a volume whose contents are at once “scattered” (like Osiris’s limbs) and scrupu­lously arranged (like a rigged séance).

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