Lorand Gaspar was born in Marosvàsàrhely (Transsylvania), Romania, in 1925. He grew up in a Jewish home speaking three languages (Hungarian, Romanian and German) and also had French lessons from an early age. He was fascinated by Rimbaud’s poetry, as well as by Einstein’s theory of relativity. As a child he wanted to become a physicist and a writer; in fact he became a surgeon and a poet. He began to study sciences in Budapest in 1943 but was soon called on to serve in the war. After Hungary was occupied by the Germans, Lorand Gaspar was deported to a labour camp in the south of Germany. He was able to escape to a French camp in March 1945. He later assumed French nationality and studied medicine in Paris. In 1954 he went to Israel as a young doctor. While a surgeon in Jericho, Jerusalem and Bethlehem, he came into close contact with the Palestinian population. It was through the Palestinians that he first got to know the desert, which was to have such a lasting influence on him, forming the most important source of inspiration for his poetry over a long period of time. From 1970 until his retirement, he worked in a hospital in Tunis. His first poetry collection was published in 1966 under the title ‘Le Quatrième état de la matière’ (Engl: The Fourth State of Material). Further collections of poems followed, including ‘Patmos et autres poèmes’ (2001, Engl: Patmos and Other Poems). Gaspar approaches the sublimity of nature with precise diction and a keen eye for detail, taking in the substance, surface and structure of a material in order to communicate its metaphysical nature. In ‘Patmos’ he frees himself of the material aspect in favour of floating, light and colours. His poems are often fragmentary and elliptic in construction, as if to allow the meaning to shine through between the lines.
In addition to his poems he has also written travel diaries on the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean illustrated with his own photography, among which is included a history of Palestine (1968, ‘Histoire de la Palestine’). He has translated poetry from various languages, including Raine Maria Rilke, János Pilinszky, D. H. Lawrence and George Seferis. Lorand Gaspar is recognised as one of France’s most important contemporary poets. His work has won the Grand Prix de Poésie de la Ville de Paris (1987) and the Grand Prix national de Poésie (1994). Lorand Gaspar lives in Paris and Tunisia.
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