Jules Supervielle: Wikis


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Jules Supervielle (16 January 1884 – 17 May 1960) was a French poet and writer born in Uruguay.

Jules Supervielle always kept away from Surrealism which was dominant in the first half of the twentieth century. Eager to propose a more human poetry and to rejoin the real world, Supervielle rejected automatic writing (that the Surrealists very quickly gave up themselves) and the dictatorship of the unconscious, without disavowing the assets of modern poetry since Baudelaire, Rimbaud and Apollinaire, like certain fundamental innovations of surrealism.

Attentive to the universe which surrounded him, as he was to the phantoms of his interior world, he was one of the first to recommend this vigilance, this control that the following generations, moving away from the surrealist movement, put at the forefront. He anticipated the movements of the years 1945-50, dominated by the powerful personalities of René Char, Henri Michaux, Saint-John Perse or Francis Ponge, then - after the bracket avant-gardist of the years 1960-70 - those of the poets eager to create a new lyricism and to introduce a certain form of crowned or, at least, a more modest approach to the mysteries of the universe, without radical questioning of the language: Yves Bonnefoy, Philippe Jaccottet, Jacques Dupin, Eugène Guillevic, Jean Grosjean, Andre Frénaud, Andre of Bouchet, Jean Follain, to mention only a few.

Amongst his admirers are René-Guy Cadou, Alain Bosquet, Lionel Ray, Claude Roy, Philippe Jaccottet and Jacques Réda.


Great events in the life of Supervielle


A very plain family

From 1880 to 1883, Bernard, uncle of the poet, founded a bank in Uruguay with his wife Marie-Anne. This company quickly became a family-orientated business. Bernard asked his brother Jules, the father of the poet, to come to join him in Uruguay. Jules made the trio a perfect quartet by marrying his own sister-in-law, Marie, sister of Marie-Anne and mother of the poet.

Birth of an orphan

Supervielle was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, to a father from Béarn and a Basque mother. The same year, the little Jules and his parents returned to France to visit their family. It is in Oloron-Sainte-Marie that a tragic accident occurs - his father and mother die brutally, either poisoned by tap water or victims of cholera. The child is therefore initially raised by his grandmother.

In 1886, his uncle Bernard brought the young Jules back to Uruguay, where he was raised by his aunt and uncle as if he was their own son.

Beginnings of a literary vocation

  • 1893: At the age of nine, the young Jules learns by chance that he is only the adoptive son of his uncle and his aunt. He begins the drafting of a book of fables on a register of the Supervielle bank.
  • 1894: His uncle and his aunt settle in Paris. Jules will receive all his secondary education there.
  • 1898: Jules discovers Musset, Hugo, Lamartine, Leconte de Lisle and Sully Prudhomme. He starts to write poems in secret.
  • 1901: He publishes in account of author a plate of poems entitled Brumes du passé . He spends his summer holidays in Uruguay in 1901, 1902, and 1903.
  • From 1902 to 1906: Jules continues his studies, from the baccalaureat to the licence of literature. He makes also his military service but, of fragile health, he badly supports the life of barracks .

Entry into the adult life

  • 1907: He marries Pilar Saavedra in Montevideo. From this union will be born six children, born between 1908 and 1929.
  • 1910: He deposits a subject of thesis on the feeling of nature in Spanish-American poetry. Extracts will appear in the Bulletin of the American library.
  • 1912: After many voyages, he settles in Paris, in an apartment (located at 47, boulevard Lannes) where it will remain during twenty-three years. But, very often, he will cross the Atlantic Ocean to go to Uruguay, his second homeland.
  • From 1914 to 1917: Jules is conscripted. He will carry on in particular activities with the Ministry of War, thanks to his linguistic abilities. Since 1917, he reads much and discovers Paul Claudel, Arthur Rimbaud, Stéphane Mallarmé, Jules Laforgue, and Walt Whitman.
  • 1919: The publication of his poems retains the attention of André Gide and Paul Valéry and puts him in contact with the Nouvelle Revue Française (NRF).

Birth of a poet

  • 1922: Publication of his first important collection of poems: Débarcadères.
  • 1923: This year marks the beginning of a long friendship with writer Henri Michaux, who will become his close friend. It is also during this year that he publishes his first novel: L'Homme de la pampa.
  • 1925: He associates with great German poet Rainer Maria Rilke and publishes one of the major collections of French-speaking poetry of the 20th century: Gravitations.
  • 1927: He becomes the close friend of Jean Paulhan and subjects from now on all his texts to him.
  • 1931: Publication of his first important collection of fantastical short-stories: L'Enfant de la haute mer (five texts published between 1924 and 1930 plus three originals). At this time, he is devoted to many literary activities and acquires the recognition of criticism, including in Uruguay. His first important play, La Belle au bois, is also written at this time. In addition, he will not cease altering his texts, giving place to multiple republications, and the fact of often passing from one literary genre to another.
  • 1938: He associates with René Étiemble.

Years of exile

  • 1939: With the declaration of war, difficult years begin: the international tension, financial difficulties and troubles of health (pulmonary and cardiac problems) lead Supervielle to be exiled for seven years in Uruguay. He is named Officier de la Legion d'honneur.
  • 1940: The Supervielle bank goes bankrupt; the poet is ruined. But his literary activity is still very intense and his plays will be assembled thereafter by important directors, among which was Louis Jouvet. In addition, he continues to devote himself to translation (Guillen, Lorca, Shakespeare, etc.) and will receive several literary prizes throughout these years of maturity.
  • 1944: He makes a series of conferences at the University of Montevideo on contemporary French poetry.

The dedication

  • 1946: Supervielle returns to France, having been named cultural correspondent to the legation of Uruguay in Paris. He publishes his first mythological tales under the title Orphée.
  • 1947: Supervielle's Shéhérazade is one of the three plays directed by Jean Vilar at the first festival d'Avignon.
  • 1951: He publishes an autobiographical account entitled Boire à la source, as some precious pages on his conception of poetry: while thinking of a poetic art, following his poetic collection Naissances. At that time, he suffers of arrhythmia and the after-effects of his lung disease.
  • 1959: He publishes his last collection of poetry, Le Corps tragique.
  • 1960: Supervielle is elected Prince des poètes ("Prince of poets") by his peers. On 17 May, he dies in his Parisian apartment; he is buried in Oloron-Sainte-Marie. In October, the NRF publishes a special number which pays homage to him.
  • From 1966 to 1987: publication at the editions Gallimard (collection "Poésie") of his principal poetic collections.
  • 1976: Pilar dies; she is buried at the side of her husband.
  • 1990: The city of Oloron-Sainte-Marie creates the Jules-Supervielle prize; among the prize winners, one finds the names of major contemporary poets: Alain Bosquet, Eugène Guillevic, Henri Thomas, Jean Grosjean and Lionel Ray.
  • 1996: Publication of complete poetic works of Jules Supervielle in the Bibliothèque de La Pléiade, by the Gallimard editions.

Main works

to see All his work

Studies about his work

  • Claude Roy, Supervielle, Paris, Poésies P., NRF, 1970
  • Sabine Dewulf, Jules Supervielle ou la connaissance poétique - Sous le soleil d’oubli, coll. Critiques Littéraires, in two volumes, Paris, éd. L’Harmattan, 2001

English translations

English text with French parallel text:

  • James Kirkup, Denise Levertov, Kenneth Rexroth and Alan Pryce-Jones, Jules Supervielle: Selected Writings , New Directions, New York, 1967
  • George Bogin, Jules Supervielle: Selected Poems and Reflections on the Art of Poetry , SUN, New York, 1985

External links


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