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Dec 08 2016

Partisan of Things by Francis Ponge

Reviewed by Christopher Vitiello, Communications Strategist, NCSU Libraries

The French poet Francis Ponge originally published these prose poems in 1942 under the titleĀ Le Parti pris des choses. Since then, they have been translated into English again and again, often under the titleĀ Taking the Side of Things. The poems are short, descriptive passages about familiar objects, and have titles like “Orange,” “Cigarette,” “Candle,” and “Blackberries.” If you read them quickly, they’re frankly kind of bland. But translators find them irresistible because Ponge was trying not to make a representation of the object in language, but to make the object itself in words (rather than, say, atoms). Corey and Garneau, in their subtle handling of Ponge’s tone, Duchampian humor, and vocabulary, bring out his phenomenology and, through that, his politics. Ponge, who signed the First Surrealist Manifesto but left the movement to join the French Resistance, becomes a partisan again, fighting on the side of reality itself, in this really enjoyable book.