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The First French Post-Symbolist

By Tim Hazell

Paul Valéry published fewer than 100 poems, which were received by his countrymen with no particular acclaim or critical reviews. Despite the lukewarm reception to his verse, this poet, essayist and philosopher has left an enduring reputation and is sometimes considered to be the first French post-symbolist.

Born October 30, 1871, in Sète, a town on the Mediterranean coast, and raised in the large urban center of Montpellier, Valéry received a traditional Roman Catholic education, studied law, and resided in Paris for the better part of his life, where he was part of the influential circle of poet and critic Stéphane Mallarmé.

After his election to the Académie Française, Valéry became a tireless public speaker and intellectual figure, touring Europe and giving lectures on cultural and social issues.

Here is an excerpt from his Le Cimetière Marin (The Graveyard by the Sea), which, together with Le Jeune Parque and L’Ébauche d’un Serpent, is frequently considered one of the greatest French poems of the twentieth century.

This quiet roof, where dove-sails saunter by,

Between the pines, the tombs, throbs visibly.

Impartial noon patterns the sea in flame…

That sea forever starting and re-starting.

When thought has had its hour, oh how rewarding

Are the long vistas of celestial calm!

What grace of light, what pure toil goes to form

The manifold diamond of the elusive foam!

What peace I feel begotten at that source!

When sunlight rests upon a profound sea,

Time’s air is sparkling, dream is certainty—

Pure artifice both of an eternal Cause…

 

Valéry was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature on 12 different occasions. During World War II, the Vichy regime stripped him of some of his prestigious posts and honors because of his refusal to collaborate with the German occupation. Valéry doggedly continued to publish. He died in Paris July 20, 1945.

 

This recipe originates from the Auvergne region of France, known for its hearty peasant style cooking. Serve it with crisp baguettes and Dijon mustard!

 

French Cabbage Galette (Galette au Chou)

Ingredients:

1/2 a white cabbage, roughly chopped

2 tbsp olive oil

200g (7oz) thick cut smoked bacon or ham, cubed

2 eggs

3 shallots, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 bunch of Italian parsley, chopped

Good pinch sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

200g (7ozs) white flour

250ml milk

 

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 F. Steam cabbage for 3 minutes, drain and reserve. Thoroughly coat a deep pie dish with the olive oil and place in the oven. In a bowl, mix the eggs, bacon, shallots, garlic, parsley, and seasoning together. Add the flour and milk and blend to a smooth thick batter.

Carefully remove the hot pie dish from the oven and allow to cool slightly before handling. Pour half the batter into the dish, then pile on the cabbage, packing it down with your hands before pouring the remaining batter over the top. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown and firm. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

French Cabbage Gallette 2

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