Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Although the novels of Blaise Cendrars (SAHN-drawr) had many admirers, including Henry Miller, his most critically respected work is his poetry. Combining his adventurous autobiography with complex, strong imagery and powerful emotion, Cendrars’s most praised books of poetry are his extraordinary early efforts, Les Pâques à New York (1912; Easter in New York, 1966); La Prose du Transsibérien et de la petite Jehanne de France (1913; The Trans-Siberian Express, 1964); and Le Panama: Ou, Les Aventures de mes sept oncles (1918; Panama: Or, The Adventures of My Seven Uncles, 1931). His poetry is most important for its audacious expression of modernism. Other important collections include Dix-neuf Poèmes élastiques (1919); Kodak (1924; English translation, 1976); and Feuilles de route (1924, 1927). Une Nuit dans la forêt (1929) and Vol à voiles (1932) were alleged by Cendrars to be autobiographical nonfiction, but critics assert they are largely fictionalized. His nonfiction “novels” and short stories, as well as his prose poems, are difficult to categorize using conventional terms. Cendrars was also an editor, essayist, journalist, translator, screenwriter, film director, ballet scenarist, and radio dramatist.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Blaise Cendrars as a writer made direct use of his personal life and experiences to an unusual degree. This has made critics uneasy with assessing his literary accomplishments, as if the writer’s life is somehow separate from his work, or should be. Miller, whose own work incorporated a great deal of autobiography, was impressed with Cendrars’s work and praised it for its luminosity, calling Cendrars a “continent of letters.” Others, however, see Cendrars as a technically proficient writer who was at his best in his free-wheeling poetry. Both his poetry and prose, however, are praised for their rich, powerful, restless, modern imagery and strongly evocative effects.

Blaise was an independent man who did not ally himself with any literary movements, but he was nevertheless a great influence on Surrealism and other modern movements. Only late in his life did he attain any substantial critical recognition, receiving the Legion of Honor in 1959 and the Grand Prix Littéraire de la Ville de Paris in 1961.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Albert, Walter, ed. Selected Writings of Blaise Cendrars. 1966. Reprint. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1978. In his critical introduction, editor Walter Albert suggests that Cendrars lacked discipline and form and that his work thus never achieved its rich potential. Includes a preface by Henry Miller.

Bochner, Jay. “An American Writer Born in Paris: Blaise Cendrars Reads Henry Miller Reading Blaise Cendrars.” Twentieth Century Literature 49, no. 1 (2003): 103-122. Examines the relationship of Cendrars and Miller and contrasts their writings. Bochner finds fault with the authors’ writing styles, maintaining that Miller has trouble keeping “the flow” of his work “flowing,” while Cendrars’s problems are “believability and form.”

Bochner, Jay. Blaise Cendrars: Discovery and Re-Creation. Buffalo, N.Y.: University of Toronto Press, 1978. Full-length study of Cendrars’s life and works, providing a thorough and balanced assessment of his complete oeuvre. Includes an index and a bibliography.

Bursey, Jeff. “Blaise Cendrars.” Review of Contemporary Fiction 24, no. 1 (Spring, 2004): 58-93. An overview of some of the elements of Cendrars’s novels and memoirs, in which Bursey, in his own words, hopes to “initiate more interest in this neglected artist whose work spans genres,...

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