Blaise Cendrars (1 September, 1887 – 21 January, 1961) was a modernist Swiss poet, writer, and traveler. The poet wrote in French, and was a big influence in the European modernist movement.
Fun Facts about Blaise Cendrars:
- Frédéric-Louis Sauser was born in Switzerland, in a town called La Chaux-de-Fonds, located in the municipality of Neuchâtel. His parents were well off enough to send him to a German boarding school.
Which he promptly ran away from.
- The young man enrolled in a school in his hometown, but he never took to learning and left. He began an apprenticeship in Russia with a Swiss watchmaker.
- While living in St. Petersburg, Mr. Cendrars began writing poetry. R. R., his friend, a librarian at the National Library of Russia, translated his poem The Legend of Novgorode (La Légende de Novgorode) to Russian. The poem is lost to history, supposedly fourteen copies were made but none were found. In 1905, a Bulgarian writer thought he discovered a copy in Sofia, but that copy is no considered a fraud.
- In 1907, Blaise Cendrars returned to his home country to study medicine at the University of Berne. He continued writing poems during his studies.
- The first long poem Mr. Cendrars wrote was during a visit to New York City. Easter in New York (Les Pâques à New York) is considered to be his first important work. The trip also convinced him that writing is his future.
- In 1911 Blaise Cendrars married Féla Poznańska, a Russian Jew. The couple had three children together including Miriam Gilou-Cendrars, an active member of London’s Free French and her father’s biographer. In 1959, Mr. Cendrars married a French actress, Raymone Duchâteau, and converted to Catholicism.
- In 1912 he started the journal Les hommes nouveaux in Paris with anarchist writer Emil Szitya. During that time he was also introduced to many of Paris’ artists and writers.
- When World War I began, Blaise Cendrars joined the French Foreign Legion, while also appealing to foreign artists to do the same. He served on the front lines in the Somme, and lost his arm. The experiences influenced his book The Severed Hand (La Main coupée).
- During the 1920s Mr. Cendrars stopped writing poetry, and hobnobbing with French intellectuals in favor of the burgeoning movie industry in the United States, France, and Italy.
- When Germany invaded France in 1940 he joined the British Expeditionary Force in France. The book he wrote, With the English Army (Chez l’armée anglaise) about his experience was seized by the Gestapo before publication. The Nazis also sacked his library in Switzerland for good measure, and listed him as “Jewish writer of French expression”.
He did, however, had the last laugh and survived longer than the Third Reich.
Zohar – Man of la Book
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