Blaise Cendrars: Wikis


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Cendrars' portrait by Amadeo Modigliani (1917)
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Frédéric Louis Sauser (September 1, 1887 – January 21, 1961), better known as Blaise Cendrars, was a Swiss novelist and poet naturalized French in 1916. He was a writer of considerable influence in the modernist movement.




Early years

He was born in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Neuchâtel, Switzerland to a bourgeois francophone family. Initially, they attempted to send young Frédéric to a German boarding school, but he ran away. After, they tried enrolling him in a school in Neuchâtel, but he had little enthusiasm for his studies. Finally, in 1904, he left school due to poor performance and began an apprenticeship with a Swiss watchmaker in Russia.

It was in St Petersburg that he began to write, thanks to the encouragement of R.R., a librarian at the National Library of Russia. There he wrote the poem La Légende de Novagorode, which R.R. translated into Russian. Supposedly fourteen copies were made, but Cendrars claimed to have no copies of it, and none could be located during his lifetime. In 1995, the Bulgarian poet Kiril Kadiiski found one of the Russian translations in Sofia. Today the authenticity of the document is still contested.

In 1907, he returned to Switzerland, where he studied medicine at the University of Berne. During this period he wrote his first verified poems, Séquences, influenced by Rémy de Gourmant's Le Latin Mystique.

After a short stay in Paris, he traveled to New York, where he arrived on 11 December 1911. Between 6-8 April 1912 he wrote his long poem, Les Pâques à New York, his first important contribution to modern literature, and signed it, for the first time, Blaise Cendrars.

He returned to Paris in the summer of 1912, now convinced that poetry was his vocation. With Emil Szittya, an anarchist writer, he started Les Hommes Nouveaux, a journal and a publishing house, where he published Les Pâques à New York and Séquences. He soon became acquainted with many of Parisian artists and writers, such as Chagall, Léger, Survage, Modigliani, Csaky, Archipenko, Jean Hugo and Robert Delaunay. Most notably, he encountered Guillaume Apollinaire. The two poets mutually influenced each other's work. Cendrars' poem Les Pâques à New York was of critical influence over Apollinaire's poem Zone. Cendrars would create a style based on photographic impressions, themes, and reflections in which nostalgia and disillusion were blended with a boundless vision of the world. In 1913, he demonstrated this through his lengthy poem titled in English as The Prose of the Transsiberian and of the Little Jehanne of France in which he described his world journey. The work was accompanied by the paintings of Sonia Delaunay-Terk. The long poem printed in folded form (2 m), was called "the first simultaneous poem" by Cendrars. This is especially important since this was an outgrowth of Robert Delaunay and other's experiments in proto-abstract expressionism. Similarly, Gertrude Stein was attempting to write prose in the manner of abstractness of Picasso's works. Cendrars liked to claim that the poem's first printing of one hundred fifty copies would, when unfolded, reach the height of the Eiffel Tower.[1]

The Left-Handed Poet

His writing career was interrupted by World War I. When it began, he and Italian writer Ricciotto Canudo appealed to other foreign artists to join the French army in battle. He himself joined the French Foreign Legion. He was sent to the front line in the Somme where from mid-December 1914 until February 1915 he was in the line at Frise (at La Grenouillère and the Bois de la Vache). He described this experience in the books La Main Coupée ("The Severed Hand") and J'ai Tué ("I have Killed"). It was during the bloody attacks in Champagne in September 1915 that Blaise Cendrars lost his right arm and was discharged from the army.

Jean Cocteau introduced him to Eugenia Errázuriz, who proved a supportive if at times possessive patron. Around 1918 he visited her house and was so taken with the simplicity of the décor, he was inspired to write the sequence of poems D'Oultremer à Indigo ("From Ultramarine to Indigo"). He stayed with Eugenia in her house in Biarritz, in a room decorated with murals by Pablo Picasso. At this time he was also driving an old Alfa Romeo which had been 'colour-coordinated' by Georges Braque.[2] Cendrars became an important part of the era of artistic creativity in Montparnasse at the time, his writings a literary epic of the modern adventurer. He was a friend of Henry Miller as well as many of the writers, painters, and sculptors living in Paris. In 1918, his friend Amedeo Modigliani painted his portrait. He was acquainted with Ernest Hemingway, who mentions having seen him "with his broken boxer's nose and his pinned-up empty sleeve, rolling a cigarette with his one good hand," at the Closerie des Lilas, in Paris.[3]

After the war, he became involved in the movie industry in Italy, France, and the United States. Needing to generate sufficient income, after 1925 he stopped publishing poetry and focused on novels or short stories.

Later life

During World War II, tragedy struck when his youngest son was killed in an accident while escorting American planes in Morocco. In occupied France, the Gestapo listed Cendrars as a Jewish writer of "French expression."

In 1950, he ended his life of travel by settling down on the rue Jean-Dolent in Paris, across from the La Santé Prison. There he collaborated frequently with Radiodiffusion Française. He finally published again in 1956. The novel, Emmène-moi au bout du monde !…, was to be his last work before suffering a stroke in 1957.

In 1960, André Malraux bestowed upon him the title of Commander of the Légion d'honneur for his wartime service. A year later, he also received the Paris Grand Prix for literature. Shortly after, he died. His ashes now rest at Le Tremblay-sur-Mauldre.


Name of the work, year of first edition, publisher (in Paris if not otherwise noted) / kind of work / Known translations (year of first edition in that language)

  • Les Pâques à New York (1912, Édition des Hommes nouveaux) / Poem / Spanish (1975)
  • La Prose du Transsibérien et la petite Jehanne de France (1913, Édition des Hommes nouveaux) / Poem / Spanish (1975); Bengali (1997)
  • Séquences (1913, Editions des Hommes Nouveaux)
  • Rimsky-Korsakov et la nouvelle musique russe (1913)
  • La Guerre au Luxembourg (1916, D. Niestlé, editeur) / Poem / Spanish (1975)
  • Profond aujourd'hui (1917, A la Belle Édition)
  • Le Panama ou les aventures de mes sept oncles (1918, Éditions de la Sirène) / Poem / English (1931); Spanish (1975); Bengali (2009)
  • J'ai tué (1918, La Belle Édition) / Poetic essay / English (1992)
  • Dix-neuf poèmes élastiques - (1919, Au Sans Pareil) / Poems / Spanish (1975)
  • La Fin du monde filmée par l'Ange Notre-Dame - (1919, Éditions de la Sirène) / English (1992)
  • Anthologie nègre - (1921, Éditions de la Sirène) / African folk tales / Spanish (1930); English (1972)
  • Documentaires - (1924, with the title "Kodak", Librairie Stock) / Poems / Spanish (1975)
  • Feuilles de route - (1924, Au Sans Pareil) / Spanish (1975)
  • L'Or (1925, Grasset) / Novel / English (1970), Spanish (1931)
  • Moravagine (1926, Grasset) / Novel / Spanish (1935); English (1990)
  • L'ABC du cinema (1926, Les Écrivains Réunis) / English (1992)
  • L'Eubage (1926, Au Sans Pareil) / English (1992)
  • Éloge de la vie dangereuse (1926, Les Écrivains Réunis) / Poetic essay / English (1992); Spanish (1994)
  • Le Plan de l'Aiguille (1927, Au Sans Pareil) / Novel / Spanish (1931); English (1987)
  • Petits contes nègres pour les enfants des blancs (1928, Éditions de Portiques) / Portuguese (1989)
  • Les Confessions de Dan Yack (1929, Au Sans Pareil) / Novel / Spanish (1930); English (1990)
  • Une nuit dans la forêt (1929, Lausanne, Éditions du Verseau) / Autobiographical essay
  • Comment les Blancs sont d'anciens Noirs - (1929, Au Sans Pareil)
  • Rhum—L'aventure de Jean Galmot (1930, Grasset) / Novel / Spanish (1937)
  • Aujourd'hui (1931, Grasset)
  • Vol à voile (1932, Lausanne, Librairie Payot)
  • Panorama de la pègre (1935, Grenoble, Arthaud) / Reportage
  • Hollywood, La Mecque du cinéma (1936, Grasset) / Reportage
  • Histoires vraies (1937, Grasset) / Stories / Spanish (1938)
  • La Vie dangereuse (1938, Grasset) / Stories
  • D'Outremer à indigo (1940, Grasset)
  • Chez l'armée Anglaise (1940, Corrêa) / Reportage
  • Poesie complète (1944, Denoël)
  • L'Homme foudroyé (1945, Denoël) / Novel / English (1970); Spanish (1983)
  • La Main coupée (1946, Denoël) / Novel / (in French) / English (1973), Spanish (1980)
  • Bourlinguer (1948, Denoël) / Novel / English (1972); Spanish (2004)
  • Le Lotissement du ciel (1949, Denoël) / Novel / English (1992)
  • La Banlieue de Paris (1949, Lausanne, La Guilde du Livre) / Essay with photos by Robert Doissneau
  • Blaise Cendrars, vous parle... (1952, Denoël) / Interviews by Michel Manoll
  • Le Brésil, des Hommes sont venus (1952, Monaco, Les Documents d'Art)
  • Nöel aux 4 coins du monde (1953, Robert Cayla) / Stories emitted by radio in 1951 / English (1994)
  • Emmène-moi au bout du monde!... (1956, Denoël) / Novel / Spanish (1982), English (2004)
  • Du monde entier au cœur du monde (1957, Denoël) / Complete poetic works
  • Trop c'est trop (1957, Denoël)
  • Films sans images (1959, Denoël)
  • Amours (1961)
  • Dites-nous Monsieur Blaise Cendrars (1969)


  • Richardson, John Sacred Monsters, Sacred Masters Random House, 2001. ISBN 0-679-42490-3.
  • Oeuvres Completes, Vol. 1 Editions Denoël, 1987. ISBN 2-207-20001-9.
  • Oeuvres Completes, Vol. 2 Editions Denoël, 1987. ISBN 2-207-20003-5.
  • Oeuvres Completes, Vol. 3 Editions Denoël, 1987. ISBN 2-207-20005-1.
  • Oeuvres Completes, Vol. 4 Editions Denoël, 1991. ISBN 2-207-20007-8.
  • Oeuvres Completes, Vol. 5 Editions Denoël, 1980. ISBN 2-207-20009-4.
  • Oeuvres Completes, Vol. 6 Editions Denoël, 1987. ISBN 2-207-20011-6.
  • Oeuvres Completes, Vol. 7 Editions Denoël, 1964. ISBN 2-207-20013-2.
  • Oeuvres Completes, Vol. 8 Editions Denoël, 1965. ISBN 2-207-20015-9.
  • Blaise Cendrars: Discovery and Re-creation, Jay Bochner, University of Toronto Press, 1978. ISBN 0-8020-5352-1.
  • Blaise Cendrars: Modernities & other writings, Monique Chefdor (Ed.), University of Nebraska Press, 1992. ISBN 0-8032-1439-1.


  1. ^ Marjorie Perloff, The Futurist Moment, p3
  2. ^ RichardANDson, op. cit. pages 9 and 14.
  3. ^ Ernest Hemingway, A Movable Feast, the Restored Edition, Scribner, 2009.

External links


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