Antoine Raybaud was born in Marseille, in the south of France, in 1934. He studied in Paris, Tübingen and Harvard. After teaching in Aix-en-Provence he worked as a Professor in Geneva. Raybaud undertook several trips to the Maghreb, Egypt, Syria, South Africa, Poland, Romania and Spain, as well as to the Antilles and the Island of Réunion. He was active for fifteen years in campaigns held in the foreign workers’ districts in and around Marseille.
Raybaud did not start to publish any work until late in life. »I belong to the disheartened and irresolute generation which took part in the war in Algeria, and through that was made fully aware that the ›French model‹, in all kinds of ways, would not work«, expressed the author. His academic essay »Fabrique d’Illumination« (1989; Engl: Factory of Illumination) depicts the French poet Rimbaud as a »speech engineer« and explores those constructions and montages which testify to a radical modernity to which Raybaud himself feels committed. In 1992 he published his first and only poetry collection to date: »Murs« (Engl: Walls). His second large scholastical work is »Le besoin littéraire« (2000; Engl: The Literary Need), a collection of incisive essays on texts which are predominantly from the second half of the Twentieth Century. Raybaud researches in particular the Francophone literature of the Maghreb.
Ever since his student residency in Tübingen he has also had an especially close relationship to Germany, as is often evidenced in his work. He has translated the journal of Helen Hessel, whose life supplied the model for Truffaut’s film »Jules et Jim«, and has also translated poems by Ulrich von Hassell, a representative of the »other Germany«, into French. His first novel, »Retour du Paraclet« (Engl: The Return of Paraclet) was published in 2003. In an elaborate and distinctive language, it presents the reflections, dreams, memories and visions of a lonely woman who has taken refuge in an attic. She is overwhelmed by the great catastrophes of the Twentieth Century – the concentration camp in Auschwitz, the Dresden bombings, the war in Algeria, the conflict in Palestine. In between, however, she inserts the comforts of culture, for instance, fragments from poems and musical pieces, or happy memories of moments of domestic security. With musical configurations and long, meticulous sentences, Raybaud creates a narrative tone that is very much his own. The novel is the first in a planned series entitled »Froissements du temps« (Engl: The Tears of Time). The second volume, »Le Gambit du Fou «(Engl: The Fool’s Gambit), is unfinished.
Alongside this Raybaud is also working on his new collection of poems: »Stimmen. Poème« (Engl: Voices. Poem). Raybaud has published in the literary journals »Po&sie« and »Dédale«, with which he has had a long-lasting, at times interrupted collaboration. He has edited various anthologies and worked as translator, as well as director of the Centre Saint-John Perse in Aix-en-Provence. He lived in Geneva and Paris. Raybaud dies 2012.
Translator: Claudia Kalscheuer
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