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Bernard Noël [ France ]

Bernard Noël was born in Sainte-Genevieve-sur-Argence/Aveyron, France in 1930 and he attended journalism school in the early 1950s. He was working as an editor and translator when his first volume of poetry came out in 1953. Five years later, »Extraits du corps« (1958; tr: Bodily Extracts ), a collection of prose poems appeared. In this collection, he attempts a unique »reciprocal fusion«. He tries to give words a body and the body, words. The main concern of his »écriture du corps« is the interpenetration of the material and immaterial dimensions. After its publication, Bernard Noël discussed in a letter to his editor his radical break with literature and his abandonment of writing. Around ten years later he published »Le Château de cène« (1969; tr: The Castle of the Last Supper) under a pseudonym. In this boundary-breaking novel, intended as an allegory of brutal experiences in the Algerian War, Noël depicts drastic and explicitly sexual excesses and violence, which led to censorship of the book and a lawsuit concerning the circulation of obscene writing. »Le Château de cène« marked a turning point in Noël’s literary output. Having previously turned away from literature, he now became a freelance writer. Since the 1970’s he has produced an oeuvre which is as extensive as it is complex, and which today includes over sixty titles, among them poems, novels, the »Dictionnaire de la Commune« (1971; tr: The Dictionary of the Commune), travelogues, literary criticism and political essays, as well as a series of texts on art, artists and questions concerning perception.

In 1983, he founded the literary centre, the Abbey of Royaumont, with the aim of translating contemporary poets such as Nuno Judice, Oskar Pastior and Yadollah Royai. In 1992, he was awarded the Prix National de Poésie. As early as 1975 he had coined the neologism »la sensure«, meaning the »prohibition of thought«, an allusion to »la censure« (censorship of word). In the collection of essays »La Castration mentale« (1997), Noël warned of how freedom of speech is threatened by the creeping damage brought about in particular by being inundated by visual mass media. Bernard Noël lives in the Northern French town of Maurigny.