Every week, the editors of The Paris Review lift the paywall on a selection of interviews, stories, poems, and more from the magazine’s archive. You can have these unlocked pieces delivered straight to your inbox every Sunday by signing up for the Redux newsletter.
“The translator’s relation to his to-be-translated writer, or victim,” observed Richard Howard, the poet, translator, and longtime Paris Review poetry editor, in his 2004 Art of Poetry interview, “is essentially erotic and an exchange of mental fluids that cannot be entirely justified or explained.” Howard, who passed away last week at the age of ninety-two, won the 1970 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for his collection Untitled Subjects. His impact on American letters was immeasurable. He published, in addition to his many volumes of poetry, landmark translations of Charles Baudelaire, Roland Barthes, Emil Cioran, and André Gide, among others. You can find here an oral history of his life and work that appeared on the Daily in 2017, when he won our lifetime achievement award, the Hadada.
This week, we’re unlocking his 2004 interview as well as his poem “On Tour,” his translation of Baudelaire’s “Parisian Dream,” and an excerpt from his translation of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, accompanied by a brief conversation with George Plimpton. As Craig Morgan Teicher, our digital director and a former student of Howard’s, writes, “To sit with him was to sit in the glorious eye of a thousand-year literary storm, to be guided through its currents, to be invited in.”
If you enjoy these free interviews, poems, and translations, why not subscribe to The Paris Review? You’ll get four new issues of the quarterly delivered straight to your door.
The Art of Poetry No. 86
History and high culture were indeed my real home, and I found them right there in our house—in the library which became, indeed, my precocious playroom. Reading was an interior exile, so that I didn’t have to look away from home, as you put it, just further in.
From issue no. 138 (Spring 1996)
It is the movement that disturbs the line,
Thickening the form,
Turning into warm
Compression what had once been cold and fine.
From issue no. 13 (Summer 1956)
It is a terrible terrain
no mortal eye has seen
whose image still seduces me
this morning as it fades …
Sleep is full of miracles!
Some impulse in my dream
had rid the region I devised
of every growing thing
From issue no. 82 (Winter 1981)
From a new translation of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time
How many versions of the first line of Swann’s Way did you jot down before you decided what you wanted?
Oh, dozens. And people keep offering me more. Most of my correspondents are pleasant enough about their suggestions (though sometimes people are quite acerb: they assure me I am not qualified to undertake the task, and offer me the right version). I remember one that began: “Repeatedly I remained in bed … ” And I had a letter from one woman, a doctor, who admitted that she had never read Proust but who insisted she could tell from the French title that I didn’t understand the book’s subject. She had not read the book, but she knew … I must say I have given the matter a good deal of thought. I can’t imagine a new solution that would surprise me. But I still get suggestions from the most varied sources. And of course that’s fine. Perhaps everyone should translate Proust for himself—that would be a good way of reading him, no?
From issue no. 111 (Summer 1989)
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