cover image Helene


Pierre Jean Jouve, Pierre J. Jouve. Marlboro Press, $29.95 (104pp) ISBN 978-0-910395-92-2

Helene is a succinct and poetic exposition of the themes that fascinated French poet and novelist Jouve following his annus mirabilis 1924-25. In that year he embraced Catholicism and married Blanche Reverchon, a practicing psychiatrist nine years his senior. A decade or so later he wrote this novella, ostensibly about a young boy's love for an older aristocratic woman, but more accurately a mystical rumination on Eros and Thanatos. While staying in the Italian Alps, 16-year-old Leonide sees an apparition, a beautiful woman with fascinating hair ``full of folds and clouds, of blood-red sheens, of black caverns, in which my gaze drowned while experiencing the voluptuous pleasure of death.'' The apparition turns out to be the Countess Helene de Sannis, ``a fairy enchantress with an almost divine power hidden in her skirt.'' Jouve's mystical tendencies make it more palatable for skeptical modern readers to reach beyond his Freudian themes to the beautifully described tableaux and the exquisitely painful tale of intense passion and doomed consummation. (Sept.)