Christian Bobin, La Dame Blanche (2008)

**My strategy to solve the dilemma of the other day is shorter posts, less perfectionism. This is the only solution I find to finally let other people know about the books I read. It’s a shame to let drafts linger for weeks with the hope to transform them one day into polished gems. It’s better to have rough edges than nothing, I guess.**

French people know French poets, but hardly know foreign poets at all. It may be a shock for you that Emily Dickinson is hardly known in France. Christian Bobin, a writer navigating between fiction and poetry in his own books, has written a biography of her in a French book, comparing her to Rimbaud.

The result is fresh, surprising and delicate. Deceptively simple and very evocative, it is as much a novel as a biography. The translator of Bobin in English, Alison Anderson, says:

La Dame Blanche, an excerpt of which will appear in the upcoming edition of Two Lines, is Bobin’s most recent publication in France as of this writing, an imagined biography of Emily Dickinson. They are kindred souls, both living reclusive lives enriched by their ability to focus on the everyday, in a familiar landscape that is, in fact, never the same from one day to the next. Reading Bobin opens one’s eyes onto a new way of seeing the world—in fact it may be an old way, a forgotten way, but it becomes fresh beneath his pen, through his words. Something he must share, after all, with the Lady in White from Amherst. Like all his other texts, La Dame Blanche is short, poetic, inventive. He does not so much tell her story as suggest a way of understanding who she was, of seeing her subliminally, intuitively.

The facts are delicately woven into descriptions, emotions, and moves seamlessly forth and back in Emily’s life. To Bobin, she comes out as a frail and graceful angel, someone completely human and at the same time extraordinary. Somehow, it tells as much about Emily Dickinson’s sensibility as about Bobin’s. I’m grateful for this opportunity to learn about both.

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