J.V. Foix, Daybook 1918: Early Fragments, ed. and trans. by Lawrence Venuti (Northwestern University Press, 2019)
J.V. Foix: pastry chef by day, pioneering surrealist poet by night—it sounds like a rejected Monty Python bit. But Foix was quite successful in the bakery trade, eventually owning two thriving shops in his native Barcelona. At the same time, he was a quirky and engaging avant gardist writer, as Lawrence Venuti’s new translation of the Catalan poet’s early prose poems and other writings – written between about 1910 and 1930 – makes abundantly clear. But there’s more: Foix was also an ardent Catalan nationalist (of the extreme right-wing persuasion); a cohort of Dali and MirÓ; a prolific essayist who championed international modernism; and a discerning translator who rendered a portion of Eliot’s The Waste Land into Catalan. Later in life, he traded surrealism for sonnets and poems in a more classical mode, but this work is rather lackluster. Foix enjoyed a long career, publishing until his death in 1987 at the age of 96. Despite these many accomplishments, his influence on other Catalan writers, and his charmingly Borgesian CV, Foix is largely unknown to Anglophone readers. A few of his poems appear in Jerome Rothenberg’s behemoth anthology of global modernism, In Pursuit of the Millennium, but prior to Venuti’s book only one volume of Foix translations existed, When I Sleep, I See Clearly, translated by David Rosenthal and published in 1988. Rosenthal chose to render poems from all periods of Foix’s career – including the creaky and lapidary later efforts. Venuti focuses exclusively on ...
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