Hédi Kaddour (Tunis, 1945) is one of the French writers currently designated as the new lyrical poets, a somewhat misleading name for a heterogeneous group that began releasing work through smaller publishing houses halfway through the 1980s and went on to appear with the major ones. Gallimard in particular has taken on a fair number, including Philippe Delaveau, Guy Goffette and Hédi Kaddour. Other publishers followed Gallimard’s example and developed lists of young poets, all of whom reverted in different ways to the terrain of subjectivity, emotion and melody. It will also come as no surprise that this renouveau lyrique coincided with a comparable tendency in prose, where, from the early 1980s onwards, books for a broader public were written as a reaction against the almost scientific strictness of Tel Quel and the Nouveau Roman.
Kaddour’s debut collection of poetry, Le chardon mauve, was published in 1987 by Ipomée. His breakthrough came two years later with his first book for Gallimard, La fin des vendanges, which received exceptionally favourable reviews. In the same year, he published a collection of translations of Wallace Stevens, and began to contribute poems and essays with some frequency to the Nouvelle Revue Française. A selection of these, L’Émotion impossible, was published in 1994 – the title being a homage to Joseph Brodsky.
Kaddour, who is a university professor of French literature, is mainly interested in those poets of the great European tradition who have found their own way of “reducing the unified song of the nightingale to silence by deserting the place of the poet”. By the place of the poet, he means the subjective ‘I’ as origin, goal and meaning of poetry. What remains is a lyricism of the empty chair, and it is therefore no coincidence that the title of Kaddour’s third collection of poetry is La chaise vide. This book was followed by two more collections, the last of which was published in 2000.
Currently Kaddour is concentrating on prose, and he was awarded the Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman for his novel Waltenberg (2005).
Le chardon mauve, Ipomée, Moulins, 1987
La fin des vendanges, Gallimard, Paris, 1989
La chaise vide, Obsidiane, Sens, 1992
Jamais une ombre simple, Gallimard, Paris, 1994
Passage au Luxembourg, Gallimard, Paris, 2000
Waltenberg, Gallimard, Paris, 2005
Savoir-vivre, Gallimard, Paris, 2010
Aborder la poésie, Seuil, Paris, 1997 (educational book)
L’Émotion impossible, Le Temps qu’il fait, Cognac, 1994 (essays)
Les pierres qui montent: Notes et croquis de l’année 2008, Gallimard, Paris, 2010 (diary)