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 Raymond Thépot

 

I came to India (to stay) from France some 25 years ago. Goal of this qualitative jump from West to East was originally the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, in Pondicherry, but after a few weeks this jump landed me in Auroville.
In spite of my passion for literary studies and a call for teaching French, I always had felt a lack of oxygen in the French society. Strongly attracted by the sun and the south, I had earlier on already shifted my teaching capacities to Morocco, a beautiful country which acted as a springboard for the migration to India - as in the end even Morocco, for all its landscapes and vast spaces, could not any more provide me with the oxygen I needed…

 

To the South of the South

I think I heard about Sri Aurobindo and the Mother for the first time through a book by the late Gabriel Germain, who had been a long-time teacher (of French, of course) in Morocco. It was a kind of intellectual autobiography, a very refined one, in which Sri Aurobindo's 'The Life Divine' and 'Savitri' played an important part. While reading this book, which happened in the late sixties, I started to write to the Mother, who sent blessing packets and inner answers in return. As the inner life was growing, so did the difficulties in my daily and family life.
Subsequently, Satprem's book, 'The Adventure of Consciousness' acted as a catalyst, and finally I took the big step. I requested to be removed from the master list of French teachers and came to the country where there's even more sun than in Africa, and where the Sun of Truth, Surya, is present behind a thin veil only, - and which represents for me, somehow, the South of the South…

Translating Sri Aurobindo's poetry into French

Since then I have been involved in quite a few activities in Auroville, such as gardening (I remember growing tomatoes in the Aspiration Farm, long ago) and small scale tree-planting (the contact with Nature has always been a big help for me), working at Matrimandir, teaching… But my main activity has always been, and is becoming more and more, personal writing (poems, essays, etc.) and translation into French of Sri Aurobindo's poetry. This last work, which considerably relegated the personal writing of yore to the background, is quite demanding.. and rewarding, and almost all my free time is now devoted to it.
There are quite some translations to be done, beautiful texts by Sri Aurobindo to be grafted on the tree of French language, deserving to be published.

Translations thus far

The French translations of Sri Aurobindo works which I have published under the aegis of 'Latin Pen' - a small publishing house which I have created here, open to all Latin languages - are so far: 'Savitri', integral translation in 2 volumes (1991 and 1996); 'Ilion', the epic poem of Sri Aurobindo about the Fall of Troy (1996); and 'Eric', a Viking drama in five acts (1996). I should mention here also the translation of 'Beyond Man', a well-documented book about the integral yoga written by Georges Van Vrekhem, under the title 'Au delà de l'espèce humaine'.
Some other translations are waiting for the financial opportunity to be published: the longer poems of Sri Aurobindo ('Urvasie', 'Love and Death', 'Ahana', 'The Rishi', 'Baji Prabhou' etc), as well as 'The Guardians of the Light', a beautiful Vedic commentary by Sri Aurobindo (translation by Surya, Varuna, Mitra, Bhaga, Aryaman). The French rendering of another book of Georges Van Vrekhem, a biography of the Mother, 'The Mother, the story of her life', will very soon be finalised.

Personal work

As for my personal work: the following books have been published in Auroville up to now: 'Réelles Utopies' (essays, paradoxes, novellas), which has found a good amount of readers. Written in French, it is now also available in English (but as yet not published) thanks to the very fine translation by Aurovilian Shraddhavan. 'Houle de terre' (poems), partly translated (by myself !) into English. 'Prison buissonnière' (poems), and 'Carnets de route sur place' (Auroville August '82 - September '83), first volume of a kind of humoristic-lyric-mystic diary, for the main part still unpublished. It is a diary of someone travelling 'on the spot' ('sur place'), travelling more within his inner self than in the world around him.

 

Autoportrait,
introduction, poèmes et traductions 
de Raymond

 
 


Excerpt from Paradox Town

'Paradox Town' is part of 'Real Utopias', depicting a typically Aurovilian frame of mind:

Everywhere stand harp-trees. Aurovilians have planted trees so that the wind could play them; their hopes have not been disappointed. Wind, a mighty and passionate virtuoso, is not miserly with his performances. Moving nearer and nearer he gives voice to the green torches of foliage, makes the rustling notes cascade, inspires those drooping echo-cages to moan, raises the vast murmuring of a wordless wisdom far older than mankind. Some nights he carries an Aurovilian off from his bed, but always brings him back before he opens his eyes. On those mornings you wake stiff and aching, flat as a dead leaf, ears singing with secrets poured into them by giants. The risk of regression to the wild state that is associated with living in a dense forest environment, is slight here: great rings of open space remain, unbroken vistas which seem to melt into the sky, where our fearful gaze has difficulty in finding anything to cling to - broad motionless red earth arrows on which distance can stretch out at its ease and bask in the sun; and the blue arrow of Ocean, ever-present in its quiver of sand. 

- full text

 

Excerpt from Birth House

'Maison de naissance' is about a kind of spiritual awakening which happened to me when, coming back from Auroville for a visit in France, I slept in the house where I was born, in the town of Narbonne:

Images, are you empty images? There are two lovers amidst a world grey all over, like a wondering drop of joy. The impossible is shaping itself into festooned clouds. Hours are the crossroads of regal winds, warm to the heart which remembers. What actually is far? That which speaks from the farthest, - which at once knows how to speak and be silent, - that is the nearest.
A little flame in the breast has risen. An unknown silt is coming down from the future. I call my brothers left behind, they turn over in my sleep, they stir my blood. The hour has come, and for it not to vanish again, it is not enough to do everything. One must be.., truly, more and more truly.
A burning light; small bright circle. The night winds kneel in front of it. One loving hand with amber nails has been enough for the heart's petals to blossom. The fledgling bursts open the bolt-like hand. The world shall be sitting at the feet of a child.
The grass blade tells itself grass blade tales, and one is immured if one cannot see that to these the whole sky is listening. Or else, there would be no justice.
Intimate depths. Solemnities. Mother is standing on the path where the first oleanders create a mystery, and she is dressed with sweetness. The law of love cleaves the barks in twain.

South of France, January 1982

Raymondsav@auroville.org.in 

 

 

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