René Char — “Below the Remarkable Horizon,” “Handsome Edifice & Presentiments” & “Double” —translated from the French by Eliot Cardinaux

Translator’s Note:

Selected from Arsenal, the first section of his Marteau sans maître (The Hammer without a Master), these early poems by René Char, some written when he was a teenager, are charged with the violence of liberation, foreshadowing the rise of fascism in Europe and the Second World War (of which he played a part as the French Resistance leader “Captain Alexandre”). Already we see Char as his own poet, more adjacent than central to the surrealist movement under which he is historically, albeit briefly grouped. His poems situate themselves at the heart of resistance, full of doubt, dread, and a precocious self-awareness that tempers the molten hot substance of his necessary outcry.


René Char (1907-1988) is a French poet who was a leader of the French Resistance during World War II. These poems are taken from his 1934 collection Le Marteau sans maître (The Hammer with No Master), and were written several years before he became active as part of the surrealist movement, from which he later distanced himself.

Eliot Cardinaux is a writer and musician working at the intersection of lyric poetry and improvised music. He holds a bachelor’s degree in music from The New England Conservatory, and an MFA in Poetry from The University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he studied under Peter Gizzi, Ocean Vuong, and others. He is the founder of The Bodily Press, an independent chapbook press and record label. His poems and translations have appeared, or are forthcoming in Jacket2, Solstice, Spoon River Poetry Review, Fortnightly Review, Café Review, Talisman, and other journals. His debut collection of poetry, On the Long Blue Night, is forthcoming from Dos Madres Press in August, 2023.