Author: Didier Coste
Year of Publication: 2019
Price: Rs 250 / € 12
About the Author
Born in 1946, Didier Coste is a French and Australian trilingual writer, translator, cultural theorist and Emeritus Professor of Comparative Literature. A frequent visitor to India, he has been twice a Fellow of the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Advanced Study (Jawaharlal Nehru University) and a guest of Jadavpur University, Delhi University and the University of Rajasthan.
His poetry in English includes Vita Australis, bilingual edition (Wild &Woolley, Sydney, 1977), Anonymous of Troy (Puncher and Wattmann, Sydney, 2015) and An American Trilogy (Opus 15, The Reading Pavilion, Sounds Saved), forthcoming in the USA.
His poetry collections in French have been published by various major publishers since 1963 and selected poems, especially sonnets, are to be found in the pages of Po&sie, the leading poetry journal of France since the 1980s. He has translated into French Sethu’s famous short novel, Pandavapuram, Latin American and North American fiction and essays and Spanish, English and Catalan poetry. He has also written French and bilingual fiction (published in Paris) and a play (published in Switzerland).
Coste’s critical and theoretical work bears on literary aesthetics, narrative theory, romance, the poetics of formal poetry and translation theory. Narrative as Communication was published by the University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, in 1989. He is currently co-editing Migrating Minds, a collection of essays on cultural cosmopolitanism and completing Conversations with Hanuman, a selection of his essays on modern and contemporary Indian literatures from a comparative perspective.
A tale of two mountains
The same mountain, although into its image now
so thoroughly changed, unrecognizable awaits
here nearby—that is nowhere to be mentioned,
looms in the contraptions of the poetic mind.
The other mountain, for it is not of the same kind
but suddenly new and raw with fir trees scarred
by fire, discovers its awfully sweet impatience
to dream itself again where it was never sighted.
Pyrénées and Himal, can they sing of one voice?
they do not rejoice of one bell, Nature celebrates
not their hymen, but the parallel union of snow
with black rock, white wool yarn with loom.
Shyamala and Mary would not drape in one silk,
we know, but we’ll kiss their different footprints
on the same boulders so far apart, the day looks
older than it should when any bird is killed.
And there is this irreducible expectation of art
like a leaf carefully shaped and about to fall
in the lap of the same streams, the fiery birds
heavier than air—that can fly on the one wing.
An endless string of halls and castles was raised
between there that sometimes you flee and here
where I never landed, their weathercocks rusty
with waiting for the breath of a warmer wind.
Why revel in the stale aftermath of summer rains
the one, of August drought the other, why smother
with doubt the plain view of cascading valleys?
Of your skies mine are the tally, eyes that see.
The mountain and the plain may not be the same,
but in verse they will parade as if of one world,
one estate, one path of patience, still untouched
by plough or spade, both innocent, both so proud.
Rains, we both know, do not belong to clouds,
to thunder that tears, or earth that receives,
nor do we belong to them, for such event we long
and pine that on two mountains pours its bounty.
You are their witness, you alone stand for them
and for me, for their same whiteness and my night
since one of them is your abode and the other
without you remains steeped in its own thought.
Foreword by Rukmini Bhaya Nair / 9
Author’s Preface / 13
I – POEMS OF THE CARNAL EDGE
The precession of love / 19
Every note struck / 21
A scene with one elephant / 23
A tale of two mountains / 25
Hanuman in Mumbai (a letter to Saraswati) / 27
Another pilgrim / 29
Kali yuga / 31
Twin mandala / 33
Special darshan / 35
Nirvasan / 37
Vac / 39
Parashakti / 41
Ghat / 43
Secluded life / 45
Two mountains two / 47
II – DESI DEVI
Born before Independence / 51
Recreation of Vasant Vihar / 53
Meditation in a courtyard / 55
Dry nullah / 57
With nilgais, perhaps / 59
DDA flats / 61
Refillable thali / 63