The Selected Poems of Roger Gilbert-Lecomte

Roger Gilbert-Lecomte (1907-1943) is considered one of the eminent poets of the Surrealist period. The visionary, sardonic, and often outrageous poems in this bilingual edition represent the first presentation of his work in English. With René Daumal he was the founder of the literary movement and magazine "Le Grand Jeu," the essence of which he defined as "the impersonal instant of eternity in emptiness." "The glimpse of eternity in the void," writes Rattray in the Introduction, "was to send Daumal to Hinduism, the study of Yoga philosophy, and Sanskrit. It sent Lecomte on an exploration of what he called a 'metaphysics of absence.' " Rattray, a poet acclaimed for his translations of Artaud, keeps intact the power and originality of Gilbert-Lecomte's work.

Roger Gilbert-Lecomte

Born in Reims in 1907, Lecomte was the co-founder, with Rene Daumal and Roger Vailland, of the literary and artistic movement Le Grand Jeu. Three issues of the group’s magazine, Le Grand Jeu, appeared between 1928 and 1930. The Surrealists reacted to Le Grand Jeu with hostility. The group fell apart in 1932.

Central to Le Grand Jeu was a vision of the unity of everything in the universe that resulted from experiments with carbon tetrachloride performed by Lecomte with his friend Rene Daumal when they were teenagers. Daumal later wrote about the experience in his essay, “A Fundamental Experiment.” Lecomte defined its essence as “the impersonal instant of eternity in emptiness.” This glimpse of eternity in the void was to send Daumal to Hinduism, the study of Yoga philosophy, and Sanskrit. It sent Lecomte on an exploration of what he called a “metaphysics of absence.” In imagination he returned to a pre-natal state, “a wondrous prior existence.”

In 1933 Lecomte published a volume titled La Vie l’Amour la Mort le Vide et le Vent (Life Love Death Void and Wind), which went unnoticed by the press, save for a rave review by Antonin Artaud in the Nouvelle Revue Francaise, which is reprinted as a forward in our published work of Lecomte’s Le Miroir Noir which was originally privately printed in a limited edition in 1938.

Lecomte never left Paris after the early 1930’s. His life was a succession of jail and hospital confinements. Very few old friends would have anything to do with him during the last years. Over the generation following his death, Lecomte’s oeuvre acquired the status of an underground classic. His friend Adamov published a selection of his poetry, and leading French literary magazines devoted space to him. The complete works were issued in three volumes during the 1970’s by Gallimard. They consist of approximately 100 poems, a booklength collection of prose texts, including essays setting forth the principles of the Grand Jeu movement and various pieces of literary criticism, and, finally, a volume of letters.

Marketing & Publicity