Les Pensées: The Thoughts of Lucienne Hollard McKay by Lucienne Hollard McKay, Lilian Polk (Translator)

20662512Expected publication: February 14th 2014

I only have to hear Paris and first kiss and I instantly have “Le baiser de l’Hotel de Ville” (1950) by photographer Robert Doisneau before my eyes. Thus my interest was piqued. I always loved it when I get a chance to peek into the thoughts of people from generations past. Especially the time period from 1870-1935 is full of so many new, remarkable and revolutionary developments. The first movies were projected; Sigmund Freud founded the psychoanalysis, Max Planck discovered the quantum theory and Albert Einstein published the theory of relativity. The Belle Époque ruled in Paris and Europe! Atonal music emerged with Debussy, Impressionism, Art Nouveau; Cubism came to life under the paintbrushes of Cézanne and Picasso. Then came Expressionism, Dada and Avant-garde and the boundaries of what was accepted as the norm were pushed forcefully even further. It is in this incredible time period that Lucienne Hollard, born in 1913, grew up. She must have been 30 years old when she first met her future husband, an American doctor serving as soldier in the army.

Imagine a world torn apart by war! Imagine Paris in 1944! Imagine meeting a young soldier beneath the Arc de Triomphe! Romantic, isn’t it? I thought so, too. Reading through her deeply personal poems and sparkling reflections on life, my imagination was inadvertently captured and my thoughts often drifted into romantic day-dreams. These poems are an exquisite capturing of very emotional moments in time of a woman “who knew peace and war, ecstasy and disaster, life and death, yet loved fantasy and daydreams.”

La Lettre d’amour
C’est au son d’une musique charmante
Que je pense à vous à nos heures exquises.
Je vous aime advantage quand la distance nous sépare.
Chaque fois que vous alles au loin
Mon Coeur vous appelle.
Tous les murmures de la nature me font sentir vortre présence.
Les nuits sont interminables.
Je cheche à reconaître vos pas quand quelqu’un passé.
Quand le vent soufflé j’entends votre nom,
Et vos douces paroles se répètent à l’infini des choses si exquises …

Love Letter
I think of you when music casts a spell,
And dream of exquisite hours.
My love reaches out trough space,
And call your heart when you are far away.
I sense your presence with each sigh of nature.
Nights seem endless; I listen for your step
When someone passes by.
And when the wind blows, I seem to hear your voice,
Infinitely tender, calling my name.

I am especially glad that Lilian Polk has accomplished a terrific translation of the light and delicate verse and mirrored the native French poems in all their nuances. For someone (like me) who is neither native English nor French, but speaks French and English fluently, this little book is obviously a work of love, by the author who wrote down her feelings in the first place, by the amazing translator and by the family who treasured the poems enough to push a publication.

The poems reflect a very spiritual personality who loved God, her husband and life in general deeply. Lucienne’s escapist imaginary world and her childlike delight in the contemplation of blue skies and sunlight is apparent in almost every poem. Her experiences during World War II and the death of her parents and must have left a deep suffering ache in Lucienne life. In her many persuasive and luminous Christian prayer poems, when she turns to God to feel accepted and loved you can feel how important religion was for her in terms of “life is meaningful through God”.

Having written all that doesn’t necessarily mean I liked all the poems per se but I appreciate their transportive power.

Thanks to NetGalley!


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