Blaise Cendrars last novel is an original and often very funny portrayal of the Parisian criminal underworld of the late 1940s that crackles with the fires of an abundant imagination. Yet "To the End of the World" is not total invention as, like all Cendrars works, it has some basis in real life. The narrative races between a Foreign Legion ...
Blaise Cendrars last novel is an original and often very funny portrayal of the Parisian criminal underworld of the late 1940s that crackles with the fires of an abundant imagination. Yet "To the End of the World" is not total invention as, like all Cendrars works, it has some basis in real life. The narrative races between a Foreign Legion barracks in North Africa and the theaters, cafes, dosshouses, and police headquarters of postwar Paris. The central character in this roman a clef is Therese, a septuagenarian actress who was once the rival of Sarah Berhardt herself. Her passionate affair with a young deserter from the Foreign Legion (in which Cendrars himself served) is interrupted by the murder of a barman and the impact this event has on all their lives. With its bold and colorful supporting casta subterranean gallery of ex-legionnaires, theater types, black marketeers, dubious aristocrats, sexual adventurers, and freaksentwined with numerous subplots and minor themes, "To the End of the World" amounts to a grandly picaresque adventure. When it appeared in France in 1956, it offered a ready antedote to the sense of negativity and existential futility that pervaded many novels of the era."
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Publishers Weekly, 1992-06-08 In Therese Eglantine, Cendrars (1887-1961), the cubist poet and echt modernist, created a character reflecting the need in ``our day and age Paris, late '40s for precision, for speed, for energy, for fragmentation in time and diffusion in space.'' Therese, however, is no nubile bohemian but a 79-year-old actress who likes to be beaten, a Parisian sparrow gone to seed. She is the star both of a play--perhaps, speculates Crosland, Giraudoux's The Mad woman of Chaillot --and of a subterranean galaxy of ex-legionnaires, theater people, black marketeers and freaks. Although Cendrars complained about difficulties with the plot, there really isn't any, just events juxtaposed to show Therese as mistress of the improbable: her prolix self-defense in the face of a possible murder charge; her fascination with a legless woman, the Presidente , and a violent man, Jeannot. Cendrars's sharp humor (``They're aerophagous, and you can smell it on their breath'') is the high point of a book which is perhaps not as compellingly manic as Dan Yack . It should also be noted that, even without the first dozen pages (in which Cendrars portrays the gamut of sexual, sanguinary and excretory activities), this novel is not for everyone. (July)
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