Saint John Perse

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Saint-John Perse (1960)

Saint-John Perse (actually Alexis Leger ; born May 31, 1887 in Pointe-à-Pitre , Guadeloupe , † September 20, 1975 in Giens ) was a French poet , diplomat and Nobel Prize winner for literature .


Alexis Leger spent his childhood in the French West Indies . He and his family returned to France in 1899, where he studied law and political science in Bordeaux and Paris .

Birthplace (state 2012)

In 1914 he entered the diplomatic service and in 1916 he became legation secretary in Beijing , toured Korea , Mongolia and Japan . After the First World War he became an advisor to the French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand . In 1929 he was appointed Directeur des Affaires politiques in the Foreign Ministry. In 1933, he succeeded his long-term sponsor and friend Philippe Berthelot as Secretary General of the Foreign Ministry.

Alexis Leger was removed from his office in 1940 because of his negative attitude towards the policy of appeasement towards National Socialist Germany . He lost his French citizenship and all of his property was confiscated. He then emigrated to the USA , where he worked as a consultant for the Library of Congress . After the Second World War he was rehabilitated in France. Nevertheless, the diplomat Alexis Leger initially stayed in the USA and did not return to France until 1957, as the poet Saint-John Perse. In 1960 he was elected an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and in 1963 of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences .

The southern French city ​​of Aix-en-Provence now houses a center with a library for studying the work of Saint-John Perse. At Pointe-à-Pitre, a museum has been set up in an old colonial building.

Musée Saint-John Perse, Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe

Literary work

In 1960 Saint-John Perse received the Nobel Prize for Literature “for the high flight and the creative imagination of his poetry, which visionarily reflects the time” . His poetry is in the tradition of Arthur Rimbaud . Hugo Friedrich apostrophizes Perse in his book on The Structure of Modern Poetry as a particularly radical representative of modern poetry . His texts show signs such as dissociation, loss of meaning, conscious incomprehensibility, conscious irritation and uncertainty of the reader to a particularly high degree. At the same time there are hymn-like hymns of praise to wind and waves, to nature and the universe, as in Vents and Amers .

Works (selection)

  • Eloges (containing Images à Crusoé, Pour une enfance fêter, Eloges ), 1911 ( songs of praise ., Translator Rudolf Kassner , revised by H. Steiner, 1938; also by Friedhelm Kemp , 1957)
  • Anabase , 1924 ( Anabasis ) Translated from Walter Benjamin (?) And Bernhard Groethuysen , 1929; through, and revised. by H. Steiner, 1950; again by Friedhelm Kemp, 1955
  • Amitié du Prince , 1924 ( Glory of the Kings , transl. H. Steiner, 1952)
  • Chanson du Présomptif , 1924
  • Exile , 1942 ( Exile , transl. L. Gescher, 1948; by Joachim Ringelnatz and W. Rüttenauer, 1949; by Friedhelm Kemp, 1957 ( Insel-Bücherei 730))
  • Poème à l'Étrangère , 1943 ( poem to a stranger )
  • Pluies , 1943 ( Regen , trans. Erica Lillegg , Henssel 1946, again ibid. 1949 with extensive texts by him)
  • Neiges , 1944
  • Quatre poèmes (1941-1944) containing Exil, Pluies, Neiges et Poème à l'Étrangère , 1944
  • Berceuse , 1945 ( Lullaby . Transl. Rainer Maria Gerhardt , 1951; Transl. F. Kemp, 1957)
  • Vents , 1946 ( Winch , trans. F. Kemp, 1956)
  • Amers , 1948 ( Seemarken , trans. F. Kemp, 1959)
  • Chronique , 1959 ( Chronicle , trans. F. Kemp, 1960)
  • Poésie , speech at the Nobel Banquet in Stockholm on December 10, 1960 (transl. F. Kemp, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Neue Zürcher Zeitung and Die Neue Rundschau , 1960; transl. K. Spann, Der Tagesspiegel , 1961).
  • Oiseaux , 1962 ( Vögel , trans. F. Kemp, 1964)
  • Chant pour un équinoxe , 1975
  • Seals , in 2 volumes, French-German parallel text, edited by Friedhelm Kemp, Hermann Luchterhand, Darmstadt 1957, again 1959
  • The poetic work , 2 volumes, French-German parallel text, edited by Friedhelm Kemp. Foreword by TS Eliot Heimeran, Munich 1978


  • Otto Basil: Homer on the Caribbean Beach. In: New Austria. Vienna October 20, 1957
  • Hans Bender: God's favor over my poem. The seals of Saint-John Perse. In: Deutsche Zeitung and Wirtschafts-Zeitung. April 5, 1961
  • Günter Blöcher: I have reason to praise. Saint-John Perse in a German complete edition. In: Tagesspiegel. October 6, 1957
  • Joe Boer: The poet Saint-John Perse. In: Erasme. Berlin, No. 5–6, May – June 1946
  • Alain Bosquet (translation by Leonharda Gescher): The work of the poet Saint-John Perse. In: exile. Poem to a stranger. Rain. Snow. KH Henssel, Berlin 1949.
  • Roger Caillois (translation by Wolfgang Rüttenauer): The art of the poet Saint-John Perse. In: exile. Poem to a stranger. Rain. Snow. KH Henssel, Berlin 1949.
  • Colette Camelin: Saint-John Perse sans masque. Lecture philologique de l'œuvre. Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2006, ISBN 2-7535-0309-5 (La Licorne series, volume 77)
  • Laurent Fels: Quête ésotérique et création poétique dans Anabase de Saint-John Perse. PIE Peter Lang, 2009, ISBN 978-90-5201-578-1
  • Mary Gallagher: La Créolité de Saint-John Perse Gallimard, Paris 1998, ISBN 2-07-075433-2 (Series: Cahiers Saint-John Perse, Volume 14)
  • Roger Garaudy: D'un Réalisme sans rivages. Picasso, Saint-John Perse, Kafka. Préface de Louis Aragon. Plon, Paris 1963. Dt. For realism without blinkers. Europe, Vienna 1981, ISBN 3-203-50781-1
  • Joëlle Gardes: Saint-John Perse. Les rivages de l'exil. Biography. Ed. Aden, Croissy-Beaubourg 2006, ISBN 2-84840-081-1
  • Thorsten Greine: The poetic equation. Functional analysis of modern poetry using the example of Saint-John Perses “Neiges”. Fink, Munich 1977, ISBN 3-7705-1535-8 (series of Freiburg writings on Romance philology, volume 36)
  • Esa Christine Hartmann: Les Manuscrits de Saint-John Perse. Pour une poétique vivante. L'Harmattan, Paris 2007, ISBN 978-2-296-02730-5
  • Heinz Albers: Hymn chants on life. The work of the 80 year old poet Saint-John Perse. In: Hamburger Abendblatt. No. 126, June 2, 1967
  • Otto Heuschole: Saint-John Perse for the 80th In: The act. No. 125, May 27, 1967
  • Hugo von Hofmannsthal : Émancipation du lyrisme français. In: Commerce. Paris, summer 1939
  • Friedhelm Kemp: Saint-John Perse. In: Jahresring 1955–1956. DVA, 1956
  • Friedhelm Kemp: The poet Saint-John Perse. In: text and characters . Darmstadt, Berlin and Neuwied, No. 8, January 1956
  • Friedhelm Kemp: Breath of the World of the Poet Saint-John Perse. In: Poetics. Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts, lectures. Munich 1961
  • Reinhard Kuhn: Saint-John Perse. Poet of praise. In: Epidemia. Philosophy concern for man. Anton Pustet, Munich 1964
  • Hugo Loetscher: Saint-John Perse. The earth on the move. In: Die Weltwoche. December 13, 1957
  • Archibald MacLeish (translation by Leonharda Gescher): The personality of the poet Saint-John Perse. In: exile. Poem to a stranger. Rain. Snow. KH Henssel, Berlin 1949.
  • Catherine Mayaux: Saint-John Perse lecteur-poète. Le lettré du monde occidental. Lang, Bern 2006, ISBN 978-3-03911-220-3 (Series: Littératures de langue française, Volume 4)
  • Herbert Miller: In the breath of the planet earth. German complete edition of the seals of Saint-John Perse. In: The Rhine Palatinate. November 15, 1957
  • Greta Rau: The Sea in the Poetry of Saint-John Perse. In: NZZ. No. 343, December 14, 1957
  • Carol Rigolot: Forged Genealogies. Saint-John Perse's Conversations with Culture. Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Department of Romance Languages ​​No. 271, 2001, ISBN 0-8078-9275-0 (Series: North Carolina Studies in the Romance Languages ​​and Literatures)
  • Julius Rutsch: Saint-John Perses poetry "Exile". In: Die Weltwoche. April 28, 1944
  • Marie-Laure Ryan: Rituel et poésie. Une lecture de Saint-John Perse. Lang, Bern 1977, ISBN 3-261-01950-6 (Series: Utah studies in literature and linguistics, Volume 8)
  • Mireille Sacotte: Alexis Léger, Saint-John Perse. Belfond, Paris 1991. Reprint L'Harmattan, Paris 1997, ISBN 2-7384-6121-2
  • Mireille Sacotte commente Éloges de Saint-John Perse. Coll. Foliothèque No. 79. Gallimard, Paris 1999, ISBN 2-07-040029-8
  • Raymond de Sainte-Suzanne: Une politique étrangère. Le Quai d'Orsay et Saint-John Perse à l'épreuve d'un regard. Journal November 1938 - June 1940 présentation de Henriette & Philippe Levillain. Viviane Hamy, Paris 2000, ISBN 2-87858-133-4
  • Friedrich Sieburg: The Poetic Conquest of the Earth. In: FAZ. November 2, 1957
  • Herbert Steiner: Amitié du Prince. In: NZZ . October 2, 1959
  • Herbert Steiner: Encounters with poets (Stefan George, Hofmannsthal, Valéry, Saint-John Perse, Rilke). Maximilian Society, Hamburg 1957, and Wunderlich, Tübingen 1964
  • Richard L. Sterling: The prose works of Saint-John Perse. Towards an understanding of his poetry. Lang, New York 1994, ISBN 0-8204-1917-6 (Series: Currents in comparative Romance languages ​​and literatures, Volume 8)
  • Renée Ventresque: Saint-John Perse dans sa bibliothèque. Champion, Paris 2007, ISBN 978-2-7453-1561-8 (series: Littérature de notre siècle, volume 31)
  • Dolf Verspoor: Saint-John Perse. In: Erasme. Volume I, No. 8, August 1946
  • Kurt Wais: French landmarks from Racine to Saint-John Perse. de Gruyter, Berlin 1958
  • Kurt Wais: Deux manières d'exister dans l'œuvre de Saint-John Perse. In: Honor à Saint-John Perse. Gallimard, Paris 1965
  • Walter Widmer: The seals of Saint-John Perse. Basler Nachrichten , February 21, 1958
  • Werner Wilk: Lyrical departure into the unknown: Saint-John Perse. In: Sunday. August 25, 1957
  • Gerda Zeltner-Neukomm: Amers. NZZ No. 343, December 14, 1957


  • Kindler's Literature Lexicon
  • Maritime Marks , Nobel Prize for Literature, Coron-Verlag, Zurich 1965, Bibliography, pp. 337–343.
  • Oeuvres complete. Bibliothèque de la Pléiade , Gallimard, Paris 1972 and 1982, Bibliography, pp. 1347-1392.

Web links

Commons : Saint-John Perse  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

References and comments

  1. Honorary Members: Alexis Leger. American Academy of Arts and Letters, accessed March 14, 2019 .
  2. see Sauter under web links
  3. Eliot was also the translator of Perses into English. The preface in excerpts from Verena von der Heyden-Rynsch ed .: Vive la littérature! Contemporary French literature. Hanser, Munich 1989, pp. 170f.