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Robert Frost


Inspired by The Misanthrope
Richard Wilbur Poet
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Once I was in the Society of Fellows, I also saw a good deal of Pierre Schneider or Pierre Schneidaire who was later a distinguished art critic in Paris. And he and André combined to educate me in things French and to improve my tastes, and... to the point where I was doing enough in the way of translation to want to get over to France under peaceful circumstances and experience something of it.

The Society of Fellows very kindly sent me over to France, sent us over, my wife and me, for a three-month stay in Paris, and I shan't go into everything that happened there - the usual wonders that happen to a young writer when he goes to Paris and meets Giaccometti, the sculptor, and all sorts of French writers. What happened at any rate was that... the important thing that happened was that we attended a Comédie Française production of The Misanthrope. It was a newly mounted production with Piérre Dux and I think Annie Ducaux, a wonderful cast and a completely fresh presentation of the play. You could tell that because the bored French rose in their seats and clapped at the end. Years later when I found myself at loose ends and unable to get forward with my own writing, I remembered the 1948 production of The Misanthrope and thought to myself, well, perhaps I can do that, perhaps I can produce a version which would give the play to a bright tasteful person who didn't happen to have French. I didn't initially think of production, but I thought of producing a readable translation when I got around to it.

Acclaimed US poet Richard Wilbur (1921-2017) published many books and was twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize. He was less well known for creating a musical version of Voltaire's “Candide” with Bernstein and Hellman which is still produced throughout the world today.

Listeners: David Sofield

David Sofield is the Samuel Williston Professor of English at Amherst College, where he has taught the reading and writing of poetry since 1965. He is the co-editor and a contributor to Under Criticism (1998) and the author of a book of poems, Light Disguise (2003).

Tags: Society of Fellows, Paris, France, Comédie Français, The Misanthrope, Pierre Schneider, André de Bouchet, Giaccometti, Piérre Dux, Annie Ducaux

Duration: 2 minutes, 56 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008