Senancour

Submitted by Shakeeb_Arzoo on Tue, 07/23/2019 - 10:56

Although I have been intrigued by this entry ever since Brian Boyd's mention of it under Nabokov's Reading (in the forthcoming Think, Write, Speak) only now do I look up Nabokov's Eugene Onegin and see that his epistolary novel Obermann has been quoted approvingly several times in the course of the commentary. One of them goes like this:

"The most beautiful use of the word that I know of occurs in Senancour's marvelous description of the birch tree (Oberman, letter XI): "J'aime Ie bouleau. . . la mobilite des feuilles; et tout cet abandon, simplicite de la nature, attitude des deserts." (Vol 3: 237, EO)

Being further intrigued I look up an old edition of Obermann (Internet Archive) and see Matthew Arnold has not one but two poems dedicated to its author. One of them is prefaced to an early English edition which goes something like this:

Stanzas in Memory of the Author of Obermann

A fever in these pages burns
Beneath the calm they feign
A wounded human-spirit turns
Here, on its bed of pain.

Yes, though the virgin mountain-air
Fresh through these pages blow
Though to these leaves the glaciers spare
The soul of their mute snows;

Through here the mountain-murmur swells
Of many a dark-boughed pine;
Though, as you read, you hear the bells
Of the high-pasturing kine---

Yet, through the hum of torrent lone,
And brooding mountain-bee,
There sobs I know not what ground-tone
Of human agony.

- Matthew Arnold

 

From a brief description, I understand that the novel is something in the vein of Adolphe, Rene, Atala, Werther, in other words vaguely Byronic in subject matter that Pushkin had dwelt upon in his Eugene Onegin. Rest assured, I will be looking around enthusiastically for a copy of this novel which will sort of conclude my own reading of these curious "period-pieces".

- SA