In France, Blaise Cendrars (1887-1961), a friend of Chagall, Leger, Picasso, Braque, Picabia, and Modigliani, has emerged as one of the great figures of modernism. Together with Apollinaire, he brought cubism to French poetry. Anais Nin hailed him as "one of France's best writers, " and the Village Voice called him "the Indiana Jones of French ...Read MoreIn France, Blaise Cendrars (1887-1961), a friend of Chagall, Leger, Picasso, Braque, Picabia, and Modigliani, has emerged as one of the great figures of modernism. Together with Apollinaire, he brought cubism to French poetry. Anais Nin hailed him as "one of France's best writers, " and the Village Voice called him "the Indiana Jones of French literature." Translated into English for the first time, Sky, the last of Cendrar's four autobiographical volumes, weaves together a dazzling collage of prose poetry, travel writing, reportage, detective story, and personal memoir. "His life itself reads like the Arabian Nights Entertainment, " writes Henry Miller. In Sky Cendrars recounts his adventures in Russia during the revolution of 1905, in the trenches of World War I (where he lost his right arm), in Brazil in the 1920s, and behind the lines during World War II. The two wars run throughout as a unifying thread. As the title announces, this is a memoir of the sky - of Cendrars's love of birds, levitation, and aviation. The opening of the book finds Cendrars, the great adventurer and traveler, sailing back from Brazil to Paris with 250 multi-colored birds, hoping to bring at least one of them alive to a child he loves. The second part moves back and forth between the author's recollections of life as a war correspondent in 1940 and an encyclopedic discourse on levitation he wrote in search of a patron saint of aviation (perhaps as compensation for the death of his young son, Remy, who was a pilot during the war). With unmatched exuberance, Cendrars writes on poetry, myths, existentialism, his life in Paris between the wars with the painter Delaunay and the Dadaists, and his exotic adventuresin Brazil. His anecdotes of Russia, where he was a jeweler's assistant, are compelling and funny. His fiercely imaginative stories, such as one about a Brazilian coffee plantation owner who, obsessed with his love for Sarah Bernhardt, retreats into the wilderness, are magical. DesRead Less
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