The Weight of an Empty Room: La fantaisie and gap gardening in a prose poetry sequence

Paul Hetherington, Cassandra Atherton

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Very little is known about Louis-Jacques-Napoléon Bertrand, whose literary pseudonym was Aloysius Bertrand. His biography consists of a series of fragments pieced together and is recited in scholarship and various encyclopedia. He was born on 20 April 1807 in Ceva, Piedmont, Italy and died when he was 34 years old on 29 April 1841 in Paris. In 1815 his family moved to Dijon, an ancient city that fascinated Bertrand, where he studied at the Collège Royal from 1818 to 1826. He contributed literary works to a local newspaper, which he managed, and — following a letter from Victor Hugo — travelled to Paris in 1828. There he met a variety of literary figures, including the poet Émile de Saint-Amand Deschamps and the famous literary critic, Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve. Failing to establish himself among the Paris literati, he returned to Dijon and became involved once more with newspaper publishing. His journalism reflected his strong Republican views. In 1933 he returned to Paris and probably in that year completed Gaspard de la nuit — Keith Waldrop says it was ‘written over a period of years’ (Baudelaire 2009: xi) — as well as a play, Peter Waldeck ou la chute d’un homme. He proposed unsuccessfully to a woman named Célestine. From 1835 to 1837 he borrowed a considerable amount of money before contracting tuberculosis, becoming seriously ill. He was hospitalised for extended periods and eventually died of the combined effects of the disease and starvation. His ground-breaking Gaspard was published posthumously in 1842 in an error-filled volume, selling 20 copies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalAxon: Creative Explorations
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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