Translated by Brian Stableford.
Adolphe Retté’s Misty Thule, originally published in 1891 and here translated into English for the first time by Brian Stableford, is one of the key documents of the Symbolist Movement, and one of the most extreme illustrations of its philosophy. Deliberately breaking the usually-imposed boundaries of poetry and prose, sensation and fantasy, stories and chapters, syntax and punctuation, it can be seen at once as a collection in the tradition of Charles Baudelaire’s unfinished Spleen de Paris, an avant-garde novel, and a work of Surrealismavant la lettre, reaching toward an immediacy of raw representation that attempts to gag the censor of rationalization and liberate the anarchic thrust of the unconscious as a hidden participant in the processes of perception and mental response.
Although Retté repudiated the book in later life, on religious grounds, Misty Thule remains the most remarkable work that he produced — and, indeed, one of the most remarkable that anyone produced under the aegis of Symbolism.
Adolphe Retté (1863-1930) was on the editorial staff of La Vogue, and published his first collection of poems, Cloches en la nuit, in 1889. That was followed by the remarkable Thulé des Brumes (Bibliothèque Artistique et Littéraire, 1891), a portmanteau of dream-like prose poems. He experienced something of an ideological conversion in 1893 when he became a committed anarchist and gave his allegiance to an esthetic theory that preached the necessity of a return to nature and a celebration of everyday life. In 1906 he underwent another conversion, this time to Catholicism, and his subsequent literary work was doctrinaire.