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2011 – Yves Bonnefoy

On May 31, revered French poet and essayist Yves Bonnefoy was honoured with our Lifetime Recognition Award.

Carolyn Forché pays tribute to Yves Bonnefoy

Biography of Yves Bonnefoy

Yves Bonnefoy was born in Tours, France, on 24 June 1923, into a family from Lot and Aveyron. His father worked for the railways, his mother was a schoolteacher. Bonnefoy was educated at Lycée Descartes, in Tours, until the end of “Mathématiques spéciales” (a post-secondary school preparatory year for university mathematics). Later, in Paris, he studied philosophy and held a number of small odd jobs. Between 1955 and 1958, Bonnefoy was a research intern at the CNRS, where he studied Anglo-American critical methodology. An admirer of both Italian and French art, Bonnefoy was among André Chastel’s seminar students at École Pratique des Hautes Études. His career as a writer began in 1946, but really took hold with the 1953 publication of his first book by Mercure de France – who remain his publishers to this day – Du mouvement et de l’immobilité de Douve (On the Motion and Immobility of Douve). Between 1966 and 1972, Yves Bonnefoy co-edited the magazine L’éphémère with Louis-René des Forêts, André du Bouchet, Jacques Dupin, Michel Leiris and Paul Celan. Bonnefoy, the poet, is also an art historian (Rome 1630, Giacometti) and a poetry scholar (Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Mallarmé). Between 1993 and 2004, he hosted an annual conference entitled « La conscience de soi de la poésie », exploring poetic function throughout history. He has translated Yeats, Petrarch, Keats, Leopardi and Shakespeare (HamletMacbethKing LearRomeo and JulietJulius CaesarA Winter’s TaleThe TempestAnthony and CleopatraOthello and As You Like It, among others).

In 1960, Yves Bonnefoy began lecturing as visiting professor at a number of universities in France, Switzerland and the United States, before being elected Chair of Comparative Studies of the Poetic Function at the Collège de France in 1981. He has held the post of Professor Emeritus there since 1993. Yves Bonnefoy is married, has one child and lives in Paris.

Bonnefoy’s many awards include the Prix des Critiques, the Prix Montaigne, the International Balzan Prize, the Del Duca prize and the Franz Kafka Prize in Prague, as well as a number of other prizes from a variety of countries (Italy, Japan, China, the United States and Germany). He has received honorary doctorates from Chicago University, Trinity College Dublin, Edinburgh University, Oxford University, Neuchâtel University, Roma Tre University, Siena University and the American University of Paris. He is also an Honorary Foreign Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

The things that are most full of life on this earth – the tree a face a stone – they must be named. All our hope rests in this.

Yves Bonnefoy

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