Friday, May 13, 2011

Lyrical Prose Pieces


There is no sterile love. No precaution can avert it. When I leave you, I have deep within me my suffering like a sort of terrible offspring." - Fires, Marguerite Yourcenar

Fires consists of nine "lyrical prose pieces," inspired by Greek myths including Phaedra, Achilles, Sappho and others. The narrator inserts brief comments, aphoristic fragments on love, linking these pieces. In her preface the author comments that the book is "product of a love crisis, Fires is in the form of a collection of love poems, or, rather, is like a sequence of lyrical prose pieces connected by a notion of love. As such, the book does not require any commentary."(p ix). 

 The fragments enhance the stories they surround providing thematic hints--fleeting glimpses at the memories of dreams of love. The feelings expressed throughout are consonant with the classical pieces used as demonstration of the human frailties exposed throughout. "Patroclus", for example, opens with the howling of Cassandra whose fate is to bring forth the destiny of others in her presentation of the future. We all know Patroclus' end, but his destiny is in the hands of the gods who control his fate just as they compel Cassandra's prophecies. Yet, the prose is more a meditation on Achilles' love for Patroclus which transcends his death and continues to cause Achilles to ponder the meaning of life after death. This leads me to conclude that Yourcenar here presents a work for the reader's meditative moments. Even in translation the poetry escapes through the prose, as with all of Yourcenar's works, and leaves us with messages over which we may linger with contemplation and consideration of the nature of our reading life.

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