Marie Étienne; Translated from the French by Marilyn Hacker
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Marie Étienne’s poetry is inspired by the synthesis of the contemporary and the classical, the tragic and the mundane—the quotidian transformed by the tragic prisms of myth and history. Through a profound and complex reinterpretation of the sonnet form, the book reflects, as in a mosaic of shattered mirrors, many of the writer’s ongoing preoccupations: the relationship of East and West; an eroticism at once physical and cerebral; the interaction of poetry and prose; the strange blending of the everyday and the foreign, in which the most “exotic” journeys become ordinary and the most ordinary displacements partake of the strange. King of a Hundred Horsemen—in a brilliant translation by Marilyn Hacker that Robert Hass selected for the National Poetry Series’s first Robert Fagles Translation Prize in 2007—is an elegant, deeply affecting work from a master poet.
“King of a Hundred Horsemen . . . cultivates a hybrid lyricism, rooted in autobiography yet oblique and fragmentary, synthesizing lived experience and literary allusion, truncated narrative and gnomic utterance, shifting between voices and genders. Hacker’s rendering keeps pace with Étienne’s metamorphic French, finding analogous registers and styles. But she also exploits the heterogeneous resources of English to release a stream of surprising effects, each verbal choice becoming an interpretive move that captures and enriches its French counterpart.” —citation for the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation
“In King of a Hundred Horsemen, the images of the past, imagined and real, return to haunt the present, shaping identity like the nudge of a guilty conscience.” —Clinton Krute, The Brooklyn Rail