As a professional literary translator Helen Weaver has rendered some fifty books from the French. Her translation of the Antonin Artaud: Selected Writings, edited with an introduction by Susan Sontag, was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1976.
Artaud, the French writer and actor who invented the Theater of Cruelty, was one of the great prophets of the modern sensibility. Allen Ginsberg admired Artaud for his intimate knowledge of opiates and for his relentless, anxiety-ridden, hallucinatory exploration of what is sometimes referred to as “inner space.” Susan Sontag called him “one of the great, daring mapmakers of consciousness in extremis.”
Roger Shattuck in The New York Review of Books wrote that in Weaver’s translation “Artaud’s voice is clearly audible, even in the texts that tremble on the threshold between poetry and prose.” And John Flutas in The New Republic wrote, “Helen Weaver’s English flows as if Artaud, like Beckett, simultaneously made his own translations.”
She also translated The Peyote Dance, in which Artaud describes his haunting encounter with the sacred rituals of the Tarahumara Indians of northern Mexico.
Weaver began the serious study of astrology in 1969. She is co-author and general editor of The Larousse Encyclopedia of Astrology (1980). What began as the translation of a pocket French dictionary evolved into a much larger project.
The original text abounded in misinformation, including elementary errors in astronomy. Weaver asked for permission to revise and expand, and received carte blanche. She hired Allan Edmands as her technical assistant, and they went to work, correcting mistakes, cutting drastically, rewriting and expanding most of the remaining articles, and adding over 300 articles of their own and 60 diagrams.
Weaver also enlisted, and got Larousse to subsidize, the help of three distinguished astrologers, two American and one English, as consulting and contributing editors. The ultimate result was a serious reference work that was over twice the size of the original.
The eminent astrologer and author Robert Hand called the book “the first popular reference work in astrology that attempts to go beyond the confines of any one school. It will enlarge the consciousness of every student of astrology who uses it. It is far better than any existing work of its kind. Every astrologer should have a copy.”
All three of these books are available at Amazon.
In 1998 Helen was interviewed on camera for the documentary film New York in the Fifties, based on Dan Wakefield’s book of the same name. A YouTube video of her contribution will be available soon.
In 2001 Weaver self-published a book about animal communication, The Daisy Sutra: Conversations with my Dog.
Animal communicator Penelope Smith called the book “a deep and touching story of the soul bond of a human being and her dog through death and beyond. How the author discovers that we can communicate with each other, no matter what our species form, opens a gateway for us all to a richer, feeling experience of our life on Earth.”
And in 2009 City Lights published The Awakener: A Memoir of Kerouac and the Fifties.
Carolyn Cassady, author of Off the Road: My Years with Cassady, Kerouac, and Ginsberg, writes: “Helen Weaver’s book was a revelation to me! Although I was a young woman in the fifties, I was there, but I wasn’t there! This is the most graphic, honest, shameless and moving documentary of what the newly liberated women in cities got up to–how they lived, loved and created. Who knew? It is time they did! And here’s how.”
Helen Weaver was born in 1931 in Madison, Wisconsin and grew up in Scarsdale, New York. Her father, Warren Weaver, was a distinguished scientist, author, and world traveler who was Director of Natural Sciences at the Rockefeller Foundation for twenty-seven years. Her mother, Mary Hemenway Weaver, taught Latin and ancient history and her brother, Warren Weaver, Jr., was a political reporter on the Washington bureau of The New York Times. In 1952 Helen graduated magna cum laude from Oberlin College with a B.A. in English Literature.
After a three-year marriage ended in divorce, she moved to New York’s Greenwich Village, where she worked in the production and editorial departments of several publishing houses and eventually became a professional literary translator from the French. A self-styled bohemian, beatnik, and hippie, Weaver had intimate friendships with Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Lenny Bruce, among others.
Weaver lives in Woodstock, New York, where she is at work on a book about astrology and science. Her beloved dog Brindle passed away in September 2012, but is always with her in spirit.