Mind God & The Properties of Nitrogen
Fouad Gabriel Naffah
ISBN: 978-0-942996-53-1 • $24.00 • 96 pp.
Translated from the French by Norma Cole Pastels by Irving Petlin
“First published in 1966, Lebanese poet Fouad Gabriel Naffah’s Mind-God and The Properties of Nitrogen charts the mind’s progress through the material world to the realm of pure spirit. ‘To understand is just/ the synonym for to grasp,’ he writes. Apprehended, the world survives as trace elements in the mind’s experience, in turn refined into concept, ideal, until all images fall away and the spirit frees itself. Crystalline, elusive, his poetry frustrates our tendency to consume form and meaning whole, without first appreciating the subtleties binding them more closely together. Through her masterful translation, Cole further distills the text, disintegrating and reintegrating its spirit into English.
The economy of Naffah’s poetry raises possibilities of relationships of equivalence, harmonics, between writing and life in the material world. ‘Restricted’ would be an understatement. In a way it is all understatement, the understatement of an extravagant boldness.”
—from the Introduction by Norma Cole
Fouad Gabriel Naffah, one of the greatest Lebanese francophone poets, wrote two masterpieces. La Description de l’Homme, du Cadre et de la Lyre (1963), and Mind God and The Properties of Oxygen, the latter is his only publication in English. He died in 1983.
Norma Cole is a poet, painter, and translator. She was born in Toronto, Canada, and attended the University of Toronto for her BA in Modern Languages and MA in French. Her translation works include Danielle Collobert’s Journals (1989), Anne Portugal’s Nude (2001), and Fouad Gabriel Naffah’s The Spirit God and the Properities Of Nitrogen (2004). She has also edited and translated Crosscut Universe: Writing on Writing from France (2000), an anthology of poetry and poetics by contemporary French writers. Cole is the author of Natural Light (2009), Where Shadows Will: Selected Poems 1988-2008 (2009), Spinoza in Her Youth (2002), The Vulgar Tongue (2000), and Desire & Its Double (1998). Her experimental work SCOUT, a text and image work, was released in 2005. She has lived in San Francisco since 1977 and teaches at the University of San Francisco.