Yves Bonnefoy (1923-2016)

Yves Bonnefoy, the greatest French poet of the second half of the twentieth century, passed away, this last July 6 at age 93. Yves Bonnefoy was one of the most sophisticated voices of the XX Century literature.



Yves Bonnefoy was a Poet, art historian and translator.  He was a professor at the Collège de France and a multiple times candidate for the Nobel Prize in literature.

He translated many works of Shakespeare which are considered among the best in French.

Yves Bonnefoy wrote many essays about Picasso, Balthus, Giacometti, Mondrian, Alechinsky and Miró.

One of the last interviews with Yves Bonnefoy was at the International Book Fair, in the Mexican city of Guadalajara, back in 2013…….

“Why is it necessary to think in poetry?” That was the question that Yves Bonnefoy made in his press conference at the International Book Fair of Guadalajara, when he received the award FIL for literature in Romance languages.

In that unforgettable press conference, Yves Bonnefoy explained about the huge importance of poetry in the contemporary world.

Because he said, “The Poetry, is the more direct approach with the truth of life”.                “There is not only poetry in the poems, Bonnefoy said,  poetry,  can also be found in texts of Shakespeare or Cervantes”.

Yves Bonnefoy first studied Mathematics and later, in Paris, influenced by Gaston Bachelard y Jean Hippolite, he decided to study Philosophy and science.

Influenced by Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Jouve and Sartre, the work of Bonnefoy is characterized by its philosophical dimension (of the movement and the immobility of Douve, 1953; Dans le leurre du Seoul, 1975). And as already mentioned above, he was an author of essays on art and poetic (a réve fait unto Mantoue, 1967; Le nauge rouge, 1977; The Poésie et l’Humanité, 1984).

One anecdote that Yves Bonnefoy  used to remember was the day that when he, and along with historian and critic Jean Starobinski, went to visit Borges, who was in a hospital in Geneva. When the visit was finished, Bonnefoy and Starobinski started to leave the hospital and Borges suddenly began to shout: ” N’oubliez pas Verlaine, n’oubliez pas Verlaine!” (“Do not forget Verlaine, Do not forget Verlaine”!). While Bonnefoy and Starobinski  walked away from the room, still blasted the voice of Borges in the corridors of the place. By the word – said Bonnefoy on poetry- began to exist again. It will be so.

Yves Bonnefoy  was honoured with a number of prizes throughout his creative life. Early on he was awarded the Prix des Critiques in 1971.

Ten years later, in 1981, The French Academy gave him its grand prize, which was soon followed by the Goncourt Prize for Poetry in 1987.

Over the next 15 years, Bonnefoy was awarded both the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca and the Balzan Prize (for Art History and Art Criticism in Europe) in 1995, the Golden Wreath of Struga Poetry Evenings in 1999, and the Grand Prize of the First Masaoka Shiki International Haiku Awards in 2000.

Toward the final years of his life, Bonnefoy was recognized with the Franz Kafka Prize in 2007 and, in 2011, he received the Griffin Lifetime Recognition Award, presented by the trustees of the Griffin Poetry Prize. In 2014, he was co-winner of the Janus Pannonius International Poetry Prize.

Rest in peace, Yves Bonnefoy


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