May 2011 – Max Alhau

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Max Alhau was born in Paris in 1936. He was professor of modern letters and head of mission for poetry at the University Paris X-Nanterre. Has devoted his doctoral thesis to “Gabriel Audisio, a Mediterranean writer” (Paris III, 1982). He is a member of the French PEN Club committee.

Poet, he has published about twenty collections, among the last ones:

  • At the rising night (Voix d’encre, 2001)
  • Proximity to far-off people (L’Arbre à Paroles, 2006, Charles Vildrac Award from the SGDL)
  • From Asylum in Exile (Voix d’encre, 2007, Prix Georges Perros)

Critic, he collaborates or collaborated in Other South, Diérèse, Europe, The NRF and is translator of the Spanish.



We say that the forest in the near
where we can sift through time.
Memory does not know ash:
we are captive of nothing
and even the thickets, the thorns
do not interfere with our march.

No haste is conceded to us.
The end or the origin, whatever the trajectory
since it’s always somewhere else
that we wear our eyes
and that the end of the journey,
we wish it unknown.

Whether you are here or further in time,
you do not know where the roots and the trees
denote immobility, the imperturbable.
You walk but you know that constantly
you will come back to your starting point.
You know that your memory is weakening
to resign himself to probing
which since ages is no longer
only a barely discernible trace.

A stone, a leaf and so many testimonials
became wandering words on the page:
you lost the object of your quest.
The cards are dumb, the journeys stowed away.
You are here or there but always away,
lost for your look and dumb
on a side road.

We would like to seize a branch of willow
or even a flower and say that a path
leads to the closest to oneself.
But trust is dwindling
we bet only on the invisible,
on summits that disturb the clouds.

That’s what counts,
a geography out of reach,
rivers with secret names, sunken islands.

That we walk, that we face emptiness
and we understand that the term accomplished,
it will be enough to turn around
for the lost places to be returned to us,
for memory to prevail
on the white and the absence forever shipwrecked.



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