The prestigious Folio Society of London has just brought out a limited collector’s edition of Fifty Fables of La Fontaine, a book of fables translated by Norm Shapiro, professor of French. The collection, originally published by University of Illinois Press in 1985, was the first of his several volumes of La Fontaine, culminating in the award-winning The Complete Fables of Jean de La Fontaine (2007).
Jean de La Fontaine was the most widely read French poet of the 17th century. This new collector’s edition presents 50 of his fables.
Norm Shapiro, professor of romance languages and literatures, spoke about poetry translation during Summer Festival 2013, held June 23 at the Longfellow House National Historical Site in Cambridge, Mass.
Shapiro is the author of dozens of books on French culture, literature and poetry. He recently translated most of New Orleans poet Jules Choppin’s poems for New Orleans Poems in Creole and French. The book presents a bilingual collection of forgotten treasures of 19th century francophone American literature.
In 2010, he was decorated as Officier de Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Minister of Culture and Communication in France. The Ordre was established in 1957 to recognize eminent artists, writers and people who have contributed significantly to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world.
Professor of Romance Languages Norman Shapiro, who translated La Fontaine into English, recently translated most of New Orleans poet Jules Choppin’s poems for New Orleans Poems in Creole and French. The book, published by Second Line Press in August 2013, presents a bilingual collection of forgotten treasures of 19th century francophone American literature.
Choppin was a well-known poet who had been published in New Orleans papers as well as Comptes-rendus de l’Athénée Louisianais, a 19th-century Louisianan literary journal.
Several of Choppin’s works are inspired by La Fontaine’s good-humored fables and written in “sprightly Lousisana Creole.”
Norman Shapiro, professor of romance languages and literatures, translated Comtesse Anna de Noailles’ A Life of Poems, Poems of a Life. The poetry collection was published by Black Widow Press in 2012.
A poet whose reputation has lasted beyond the popularity of her actual works, de Noailles was respected and beloved by France’s literary and lay population alike, counting among her admirers such figures as Proust, Cocteau, Colette and many others. Seemingly unconcerned with the tenets of this or that poetic school, she tuned the traditional elements of French prosody to her personal lyrical use, refusing however to be straitjacketed by their limitations. Without abandoning its meters and rhymes, she was not against taking liberties with both when the flow of her inspiration demanded; an inspiration often lush and musical, often visual, now synesthically sensual and even erotic, as much at home in evoking the eternal as in rhapsodizing briefly on the Parnassian plasticity of her cat. Noailles’ technique and talent transcended her gender. When an article in the London Times, in 1913, called her “the greatest poet that the 20th century has produced in France-perhaps in Europe,” and when the poet Leon Paul-Fargue supposedly referred to her as “our last inspired poet,” neither saw fit to modify the word “poet” with the word “woman.”
Norman Shapiro, professor of romance languages and literatures, is the translator of Théophile Gautier’s Selected Lyrics. The book was published in December by Yale University Press.
Théophile Gautier [1811–1872] was a prominent French poet, novelist, critic, and journalist. He is famous for his virtuosity, his inventive textures, and his motto “Art for art’s sake.” His work is often considered a crucial hinge between High Romanticism—idealistic, sentimental, grandiloquent—and the beginnings of “Parnasse,” with its emotional detachment, plasticity, and irresistible surfaces.
According to the book’s preview: “Norman Shapiro’s translations have been widely praised for their formal integrity, sonic acuity, tonal sensitivities, and overall poetic qualities, and he employs all these gifts in this collection. Mining one of the crucial treasures of the French tradition, Shapiro makes a major contribution to world letters. “
Norm Shapiro, professor of romance languages and literatures, translated and edited the book Preversities: A Jacques Prevert Sampler, published by Black Widow Press, September 2010.
Jacques Prevert (1900-1977) was a poet and screenwriter who actively participated in the Surrealist Movement as well as the Rue du Chateau group with Raymond Queneau and Marcel Duchamp. His poetry is taught in schools in France and his works appear in countless anthologies throughout the world. This comprehensive anthology, drawing from all time periods of his work, is the first in English to present a picture of the whole of Prevert’s poetic achievement.
Shapiro translates the full-range of Prevert’s irony, puns, and word play that has enchanted French readers throughout the 20th century.
Norm Shapiro, professor of romance languages and literatures, was decorated as Officier de Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Minister of Culture and Communication in France on April 23.
France has a long history of official government distinctions for exceptional achievement. The “Order of Arts and Letters” was established in 1957 to recognize eminent artists, writers and people who have contributed significantly to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world.
Shapiro is the author of dozens of books on French culture, literature and poetry. Many are award-winning.
The Order of Arts and Letters is given out twice annually to only a few hundred people worldwide. Robert Paxton, Robert Redford and Meryl Streep are among the Americans who are recipients of the medal.
Recipients of this decoration are entitled to wear the lapel rosette and the medal, insignia of this order.
One works in translating languages; the other translates words into images. Together they are about to take audiences through a centuries-old world of lechers, louts and libertines, among others.
Norman Shapiro, professor of romance languages and literatures, and David Schorr, professor of art, have been collaborating together for more than 20 years to bring ancient French verse and tales to life for an English-reading audience. Their most recent effort is a re-issue, La Fontaine’s Bawdy: Of Libertines, Louts, and Lechers (2009 by the Black Widow Press), a book they will be discussing and signing at on May 5 at Broad Street Books in Middletown at 4:30 p.m.
The two professors have Wesleyan to thank for their partnership, having first met when they both arrived on campus in the 1970s. Shapiro calls Schorr “the ideal person” to illustrate his translations. Schorr’s expressive animal illustrations, including versatile woodcuts, sumi-e drawings, and line drawings, bring the tales to life.
“David’s illustrations are wonderful,” Shapiro says. “They are not stodgy and he has a way of looking at the fables and book pages with a different eye.”
A translation by Norman Shapiro, professor of romance languages and literatures, will be given its world premiere on April 15, 16, 17 at Harvard University. The play, translated from Eugène Labiche’s comedy, is titled “PATER OMNIPOTENS (OR A SUITOR UNSUITED).” Shapiro also will be lecturing in the Boston University Translation Seminar series on April 16 on “Tour de Farce: On Translating French Comedy.”
Book translated by Norman Shapiro and illustratd by David Schorr.
Norman Shapiro, professor of romance languages and literature, translated Jean de La Fontaine’s poems in La Fontaine’s Bawdy, Revised Edition: Of Libertines, Louts, and Lechers. The 273-page book was published by Black Widow Press/Commonwealth Books, Inc. in Boston, Mass. on Jan. 16.
David Schorr, professor of art, illustrated the book.
The Contes et nouvelles en vers of Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695) were published at various times throughout his life, often these works threatened to get him in trouble with both Church and Academie. This translation covers the entire corpus in all their variety. The mildly suggestive mingle with the frankly bawdy rendered in the spirit they were written in and scrupulously faithful to one of France’s greatest poets.
As an undergrad, John Shapiro ’74 dreamed of writing the great American novel. But two things kept him from doing so.
“Talent, and discipline,” Shapiro says. “So recognizing that eventually, I decided that if you can’t do, you can enable.”
In 2008, Shapiro and his wife, Shonni Silverberg, M.D.’76 made a $3.5M gift to fund a writing center at Wesleyan. And on Nov. 20, the Shapiro Creative Writing Center, located on the top floor of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, was dedicated with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
“It’s my feeling that by catalyzing this effort, and helping it come together and getting a center and getting great faculty together and writers and poets who can come to visit that, you become a magnet for wonderful students and they would go and write the great American novel that I wouldn’t write, so I can bask in the reflected glory,” Shapiro says.
The Shapiro Creative Writing Center provides a locus
The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) has presented the 2009 National Translation Award to Norman Shapiro, professor of romance languages and literatures, for French Women Poets of Nine Centuries: The Distaff and the Pen (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008).
The prize was announced on Nov. 12 at the organization’s annual conference in Pasadena, Calif. Shapiro has been one of the foremost translators of French literature for almost four decades. Also a writer-in-residence at Adams House, Harvard University, he has translated numerous works of fiction, theater, and poetry, including Four Farces by Georges Feydeau, which was nominated for the National Book Award for Translation, and One Hundred and One Poems by Paul Verlaine, which won the Scaglione Translation Prize from the Modern Language Association.
His recent volume The Complete Fables of Jean de La Fontaine was recipient of the MLA’s Lewis Galantière Award. Shapiro noted that “translation is a perfect compromise between total freedom and total responsibility: with none of the angst of the blank page [when one writes creatively], and yet with an almost limitless choice within the givens of the text.”
In reflecting on his selection as this year’s NTA recipient, he added that “since literary translation is basically a solitary pursuit–something we (or at least I ) do