Summer 1961 • Vol. XXIII No. 3 Department KR: A Section of Briefer Comment |

St.-John Perse’s Guadeloupe

When I visited Guadeloupe, where St.-John Perse spent his first eleven years, I understood the precision of the French critic's observation that Perse is "a poet who only says what he knows." I knew very little about Perse's background before going to Guadeloupe. In the authors' biographical dictionary I learned only that he was born Alexis St. Léger Leger, May 31, 1887, on a small island called Saint-Léger-les-Feuilles near Guadeloupe; that he was educated by a local bishop and cared for by a Hindu nurse who, it was suggested, was secretly a priestess of Shiva. There was an elaborate map in the lobby of the hotel in Gosier where we stayed, and I searched for Saint-Léger-les-Feuilles, but it was nowhere to be found. I began to ask the local experts. They shook their heads: no such island near Guadeloupe. Finally, on a seventeenth century map, I discovered a little dot very close to the port town of Pointe-à-Pitre called "les Feuilles." If it is the same island on which P

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