O N  G E O R G E S   D E   L A   T O U R

By Paal-Helge Haugen

Translated by Roger Greenwald

Toronto: BookThug, 2013
Bilingual edition: Norwegian (Nynorsk) and English
96 pages. ISBN 9781927040638
Publisher’s page for ordering


Video from the book launch:
Roger Greenwald reads from the book
(10 mins.)


PAAL-HELGE HAUGEN was born in 1945 in the Valley of Setesdal in Southern Norway; he now lives in Nodeland, near the south coast. Since 1967 he has published eighteen volumes of poetry, including two volumes of selected poems and one of collected poems. His poetry has earned him many prestigious awards in Norway and Sweden and has been translated into some twenty languages. Haugen has also published four volumes of translations into Norwegian, as well as an award-winning novel, Anne, which has been published in several languages, and works in other genres.

Haugen’s Meditasjonar over Georges de La Tour (Meditations on Georges de La Tour) was published in Norwegian in 1990, won the Norwegian Critics’ Prize, and was a finalist for the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize. The book consists of a series of thirty-four poems that emerge from Haugen’s long engagement with the work of the French painter.

The kinship between Haugen and La Tour can hardly be surprising to anyone familiar with Haugen’s poetry and La Tour’s paintings: light in all its aspects, including its absence, is central to both bodies of work. Haugen describes these poems as “meditations—on the charged stillness, sorrow and celebration in the marriage of light and dark.”

Haugen evokes, juxtaposes, and alludes more than he states, creating a dense web that joins his own world of imagery to La Tour’s iconography and atmosphere. These meditations rest on constant tensions between different centuries and belief systems, between different art forms, and between the different but allied sensibilities of the poet and the painter whose work he contemplates.

ROGER GREENWALD has published two books of poems, Connecting Flight and Slow Mountain Train, several volumes of poetry in translation from Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish; and two novels translated from Swedish. He has earned major awards for his poetry, as well as several translation prizes.

Praise for Paal-Helge Haugen:

“Haugen’s poems inhabit the ‘charged stillness’ at the heart of being. They are deeply and unsettlingly suggestive of an unfathomable proliferation we are part of but can’t access—‘a system of measurement/ you do not know’—and also of our compulsion to try to represent it. I am grateful for Roger Greenwald’s translations of this important poet.” — Karen Solie, author of Pigeon

“These poems are dark yet streaked with a strange light, precise and sober, that illuminates hopeless yet oddly consoling truths. Haugen’s vision leaves the reader no place to hide, cuts through its own gloom like a floodlight to find us defenseless, heartbroken, without illusions, but touched with a music, in Roger Greenwald’s seamless English, that manages ‘to leave some hesitant / marks of happiness.’ ” — Stephen Kessler

“What has made Haugen’s voice carry across the generations since his debut in 1967 is his way of uniting formal variety with intimacy. At the same time as he tries out new ideas of form, he consistently challenges readers to participate in a struggle between passion and distance in which our humanity is at stake.” — Ulf Eriksson, Svenska Dagbladet

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