Stéphane Mallarmé

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About the author

Mallarmé (1842–1898) is one of the great figures in French poetry, a leading Symbolist, but also the forerunner of much avant-garde French poetry in the 20th century, with its quest for purity of meaning, liberated diction and unorthodox syntax. He was a painstaking writer, spending an inordinate amount of time on perfecting each text, some of which were to remain unfinished, such as his most famous piece, the posthumously-published 'Un coup de dés' (A Throw of the Dice, 1914). His experiments with vers libre (free verse) caused consternation in conservative French literary circles, but they were to exert a decisive influence on American modernism, and thence on English verse n the 20th century. As the 20th century continued ever more avant-garde writers found things in Mallarmé's work that revealed new paths for them to follow.

His Sonnets are perhaps not quite as well-known as 'Un coup de dés' or 'L'après-midi d'un faune', but they are central to his oeuvre, many of them being composed around the time of the first of these masterpieces.

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