"Ostensibly a long narrative poem, this work does not so much tell a story as it reveals a brilliant literary style. This astonishingly original poem by a noted translator of Vergil, Dante, and Ovid transcends the conventions it purports to extend. Joyfully erudite, its multilingual and punning nature invites comparison with Finnegans Wake; hauntingly obsessive vocabulary binds the various parts into a whole. Mandelbaum understands literature better than most writers today, and his poem reverberates with references to Pascal, Leopardi, and Heidegger in its frequent meditations on the infinite. For its metric coherency, internal rhythms and, above all, kaleidoscopic language, this is nothing short of a tour de force."—Library Journal
Allen Mandelbaum’s long-awaited Savantasse of Montparnasse is a work of wonder, wit, and exhilarating originality. Of Mandelbaum’s previous long poem, Chelmaxioms: The Maxims, Axioms, Maxioms of Chelm, James Wright said: ”A beautiful book: original, learned, comic in a way that only a master of many languages (like Joyce) can be comic, often lyrically lovely, and, finally, hauntingly sad. . . . I found myself startled by the extremely dense richness of its learning, only to discover, strategically placed, lyric poems of surpassing simplicity and beauty. So one might grasp the structure of the book as a rhythmical alternation between these two uses of language. Furthermore, one may read the book as a parody of extreme learning—a very deliberate parody—which is, at the same rime, a wonderful display of learning. But no matter how one approaches the book, one is always haunted by the city of Chelm and its inhabitants . . . in one sense a city literally constructed out of language, in another sense . . . a place created and transformed by the poet’s imagination into a very specific, concrete town. . . . A marvelously original work . . . an important event.” And now, with The Savantasse of Montparnasse, Mandelbaum has gifted us with another unforgettable volume.
Allen Mandelbaum was born in 1926 and died in 2011. His translations of Homer, Dante, Virgil, Quasimodo, and Ungaretti were all published to great acclaim. His rendering of The Aeneid won the National Book Award. He was the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Humanities at Wake Forest University, North Carolina.
Distributed for The Sheep Meadow Press
7.375 x 9.5, 204 pages, 10 black and white illustrations