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Cendrars--free spirit, international knockabout, displaced genius, a steely recluse with a mystic bent, a Foreign Legionnaire who lost his arm in the Great War and, according to Andre Billy, defiantly turned ""terrible cart-wheels"" when demobilized. He's merely an exotic name for most of the English-speaking literary world, vaguely remembered for a novel, Sutter's Gold, once filmed by Hollywood. Yet his poetry, poured forth in a stunning burst from 1912-24, ranks among the decisive achievements of French modernism. Great news, then, that New Directions has sponsored a bi-lingual collection of his best verse, including the three major creations, Les Paques a New York, Prose du Transsiberien, and Le Panama, as well as excerpts from the essays and fiction. (The latter specimens are, unfortunately, much too truncated, though the pieces on Delaunay and Picasso survive.) Cendrars' innovations, the pre-Dadaist effects, accent on adventure sharp functional use of sprawling and abrupt lines, the symbolic blend of irony and suffering--all these attributes propel the man's deeply personal, oddly liberating view of the world and his passage through it. One could group him with Rimbaud, Michaux and Apollinaire, but his singularity really eludes categorizing. The translations are quite faithful, if not particularly imaginative. Professor Albert's introductory study is solid, Henry Miller's gaga foreword just awful.

Pub Date: Aug. 8th, 1966
Publisher: New Directions