Bernard Noël

Bernard Noël was born in Sainte-Genevieve-sur-Argence/ Aveyron, France, in 1930.  He went to Journalism school at the beginning of the 1950’s, though his real interest lay in literature.  The committed literature of Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus fascinated him, as did the radicalism of Georges Bataille and Antonin Artaud.  He was working as an editor and translator when his first volume of poetry came out in 1953.  Five years later, ‘Extraits du corps’ (1958), a collection of prose poems, appeared.  In this collection, he attempts a unique “reciprocal fusion”. He tries to give words a body and the body, words.  The main concern of his ‘écriture du corps’ is the interpenetration of the material and immaterial dimensions.  After its publication, Bernard Noël discussed in a letter to his editor his radical break with literature and his abandonment of writing. Around ten years later he published ‘Le Château de cène’ (1969) under a pseudonym.  In this boundary-breaking novel, intended as an allegory of brutal experiences in the Algerian War, Noël depicts drastic and explicitly sexual excesses and violence, which led to censorship of the book and a lawsuit concerning the circulation of obscene writing.  ‘Le Château de cène’ marked a turning point in Noël’s literary output. Having previously turned away from literature, he now became a freelance writer.  Since the 1970’s he has produced an oeuvre which is as extensive as it is complex, and which today includes over sixty titles, among them poems, novels, the ‘Dictionnaire de la Commune’ (1971), travelogues, literary criticism and political essays, as well as a series of texts on art, artists and questions concerning perception.  In 1983 he founded the literary centre the Abbey of Royaumont, where he aimed to carry out the translation of contemporary poets such as Nuno Judice, Oskar Pastior and Yadollah Royai.  In 1992 he was awarded the Prix National de Poésie.  As early as 1975 he had coined the neologism ‘la sensure’, meaning the “prohibition of thought”, an allusion to ‘la censure’ (censorship of word).  In the collection of essays ‘La Castration mentale’ (1997), Noël warned of how freedom of speech is threatened by the creeping damage brought about in particular by inundation with visual mass media. Bernard Noël lives in Northern French Maurigny.

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