Friday, May 6, 2016

Marcel Broodthaers | Pense-Bete [reprint]

Marcel Broodthaers
New York City, USA: Granary Books, 2016
32 pp., 8 5/8 x 11 5/8", softcover
Edition of 100 numbered copies

Broodthaers' best known bookwork is presumably his least read.

This deluxe Granary Books reprint aims to change that, allowing libraries (and high-end private collections) access to a title most know only as a sculpture (see previous post).

Pense-Bête is Broodthaers's fourth book of poetry, which he financed himself. The French title translates roughly to 'visual reminder' or 'memory aid' (such as a mnemonic device, a knot in a handkerchief, or a string tied around one's finger). The poems were written as early as 1962, and published in January of '64.

In a short introductory text titled "Ars Poetica", Broodthaers recalls his early reading as a child: "A dangerous passion, an obsession, whose meagre results you have here, a few poems deflected from their natural state, from people and from things." The introduction also almost anticipates the eventual sculpture: "a taste for secrecy, hermetic practices, for me they're all one, and a favourite game."

But even before encasing the book in plaster, Broodthaers had began experimenting with obstructing the text. After distributing a few copies, he began altering the books with rectangles and squares of children's coloured paper. Some were glued down completely, and others only along the top, allowing the reader to lift the paper and read the poem below. (A few years later Broodthaers similarly altered a copy of Stéphane Mallarmé's Un Coup de Dés given to him by Réné Magritte, by replacing all of the text with black stripes, and published it as an artist's book).

The Granary Books publication of Pense-Bête is a faithful facsimile, modelled on several examples of the collaged version. Brooklyn poet and translator Elizabeth Zuba worked with Broodthaers' widow Maria Gilissen to translate the originals into English. The edition was produced by Steve Clay and Diane Bertolo and printed by Philip Gallo at The Hermetic Press, and bound by Judith Ivry.

The edition comprises one hundred copies, of which seventy-five are for sale. The "hors commerce" (or "outside of trade") copies were distributed to the estate, and to Zuba.

The title is available from the publisher for $2000.00 US. For more information, visit Granary Books, here.

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