On the night of 4 October 1892, during a heavy storm, Paul Valéry entered an existential crisis. It became known as 'The night of Genoa', and it made such a big impression on Valéry that he decided to give his career as an author a new direction: he stopped writing poetry. Around 1898, his writing activity even came to a near-standstill - perhaps in part due to the death of Mallarmé, his great example and mentor. For nearly twenty years, Valéry did not publish a single word.
One of the reasons for this crisis - which Valéry himself compared to that of Descartes when he wrote 'cogito ergo sum' - was his love for Madame de Rovira, which, although experienced from afar, had developed into an obsession for Valéry. During his short stay in Genoa, far removed from the source of his infatuation, he was painfully confronted with his irrational thoughts and feelings. He decided to choose intellect over the 'unconscious' from that moment on. He was therefore sceptical about matters that were not strictly rational, such as religion, dreams and literature. Personal troubles became subordinate to higher philosophy.
After the 'Great Silence'
Not until 1917 did Valéry break this 'Great Silence' with the publication of La jeune Parque, a poem of 500 lines of verse on which he had worked for approximately four years. He had originally intended to write only a poetic introduction of a mere thirty-odd lines - by request of his publisher Gallimard and his friend Gide - for a new edition of his early poems. The result is now considered a masterpiece: the hermetic monologue of a woman who has fallen victim to the battle between body and spirit, and therefore a typical example of Valéry's extreme formalism.
This - later- edition of La jeune Parque was provided with etchings by Jean-Gabriel Daragnès, an artist who began his career as a painter, but who soon taught himself the art of engraving. His designs illustrate his love for the unity of the book. Not only did he illustrate books himself, but he was also active as a master printer and bibliophile. He gathered a circle of friends around him that consisted of writers such as Colette, Carco, Valéry, Mac Orlan and Giraudoux, artists such as Galanis, Bofa and Falké, and publisher Robert Émile-Paul. They came together on Saturdays in Daragnès's studio in Montmartre where various new projects and collaborations were initiated. La jeune Parque was the first title to be illustrated by Daragnès himself. The copy in the Koopman Collection is number 160 from a total of 200 copies printed on Arches paper, and it contains a dedication from Valéry to Max Molho as well as a manuscript correction by the author, which he signed with his initials.
|Description:||La jeune Parque / Paul Valéry ; éd. ornée de dess. grav. sur cuivre par Daragnès. Parijs: Émile-Paul frères, 1925. -  p. : ill., 33 cm|
|Printer:||Louis Kaldor (text)|
|Roger Lacourière (etchings)|
|This copy:||Number 160 of 200 on Arches|
|Note:||With autograph dedication from the author to Max Molho|
|With manuscript correction by the author, signed with his initials|
|Bibliography:||Bénézit 4-242 ; Carteret IV-386 ; Édouard-Joseph I-350 ; Monod 10884|
|Shelf-mark:||Koopm A 571|
- Sylvie Ballestra-Puech, Lecture de La jeune Parque. Paris, Klincksieck, 1993
- Marie-Louis Bataille, 'Gabriel Daragnès, graveur et maître d’oeuvre', in: Art et décoration, 64 (1935), p. 104-112
- Maurice Bémol, La parque et le serpent: Essai sur les formes et les mythes. Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 1955
- Denis Bertholet, Paul Valéry 1871-1945. Paris, Plon, 1995
- Paul van Capelleveen, Sophie Ham, Jordy Joubij, Voices and visions. The Koopman Collection and the Art of the French Book. The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands; Zwolle, Waanders, 2009
Autograph dedication from Paul Valéry to Max Molho
Page  with etching byJean-Gabriel Daragnès
Page  with etching by Jean-Gabriel Daragnès
Page  with manuscript correction by Paul Valéry