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Paul Valéry is a major French poet and essayist of the first half of the 20th century. There have been abundant commentaries about his works, but less is available in English than in French. This version should be of interest to the literary-minded English-speaking public, for example but not only, students of French literature. This study starts with a search for metaphysical symbols in Valéry's poetical works: symbols linked to the numbers 2 (Dualities: Young and Fate), 3 (Triads), 4 (Tetrads, such as the four elements), the Serpent, gold and precious stones, the mythology of Dawn, etc. Similarities are found with ancient traditional texts, Hindu for example, with more recent authors such as Dante, Jakob Böhme, Fabre d'Olivet. Also, Valéry was acquainted with T.S. Eliot, they belong to the same literary generation. Some biographical data is recalled, which rather relates to psychology, mainly his relations with women: an initial shock, and what followed. Finally, there are more diverse reflections, about his models, his writing methods. His position on the controversial question of content versus style is defended; his use of meter, his obscurity, are studied. A comparison is made with the American poetess Sylvia Plath. The opinions expressed here sometimes differ from what has been said by other authors, but not always: often enough eminent commentators are quoted, including Valéry himself. The book end with an abundant bibliography.
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