Poet, novelist, filmmaker, soldier and war journalist in the two great wars, raconteur, rounder and roustabout, Blaise Cendrars blazed an arc across the star-lit skies of modernity.
Originally published by Denoel in 1952, Cendrars Speaks… is a collection of radio interviews and memories of his life and times. From Surrealism to Cubism to the French novel, Cendrars was enormously influential — the heir of Rimbaud and the precursor of the beat poets and of Marshall Mcluhan. He was a close collaborator and crony of Léger, Modigliani, Chagall, and venerated by Henry Miller. John Dos Passos immortalized him as the “Homer of the Transsiberian”. But Cendrars, unlike most of his contemporaries, also marked his era as a participant and front-line witness to the tragic events of the twentieth century. Cendrars own experience and compassion transformed him into a Cassandra-figure who sounded early warnings that modernism was reeling out of control at the expense of our common humanity. It is all here in these remarkable oral memoirs — the theft of the Mona Lisa for which Apollinaire was accused, his drinking bouts with Modigliani, the caustic asides on Breton and Picasso, his days in the circus with Chaplin, his friendships with tziganes and train robbers, whaling in the south seas, the pathos of the last days of Apollinaire, and the tragedy of having his works destroyed by the Gestapo and being falsely placed on the infamous “Otto List” as a Jewish writer.
Through these intimate interviews with his good friend Michel Manoll, Blaise Cendrars shares the extraordinary fruits of his legendary life and offers us an inside look into Paris between the wars.
What a writer learns from Cendrars is to follow his nose, to obey life’s commands, to worship no other god but life.
~ Henry Miller
The only true things that prevent you from cursing and reviling life are saints, children, flowers and birds, lunatics, the gratuitous gifts that come to you from God knows where, harvest workers and innocent souls. Without these life would be impossible.
~ Blaise Cendrars
Frédéric-Louis Sauser (September 1, 1887 – January 21, 1961), better known as Blaise Cendrars, was a Swiss-born novelist and poet who became a naturalized French citizen in 1916. He was a writer of enormous influence in the European modernist movement.