Sunday, November 29, 2009

Readings: Blaise Cendrars


If you happened to have dropped by this site a couple of weeks back, you may have seen one or more of the posts I put up quoting from Henry Miller’s excellent book, Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch. In that book (and probably in others), Miller touts the writings of the French novelist, Blaise Cendrars. Having never read any Cendrars, Miller’s endorsement sent me off to the stacks, resolved to fill this gap in my cultural heritage. I came away from the library with two books by Cendrars: The Confessions of Dan Yack; and Moravagine.

Of the former, the less said the better. The latter is a more interesting and substantial work. In the end, despite Miller’s enthusiasm for Cendrars and my enthusiasm for Miller, I can’t say that reading these two works has left me with any desire to pursue further studies concerning the fiction of Cendrars: c’est fini.

In Moravagine, he does manage to create one of the most cynical, amoral protagonists that I’ve ever encountered. Some thought typical of this character is presented below:

…In the last analysis scientific knowledge is negative. The latest discoveries of science as well as its most stable and thoroughly proven laws, are just sufficient to allow us to demonstrate the futility of any attempt to explain the universe rationally, and the basic folly of all abstract notions. We can now put our metaphysics away in the museum of international folklore, we can confound all a priori ideas. How and why have become idle, idiotic questions. All that we can admit or affirm, the only synthesis, is the absurdity of being, of the universe, of life. If one wants to live one is better to incline towards imbecility than intelligence, and live only in the absurd. Intelligence consists of eating stars and turning them into dung. And the universe, at the most optimistic estimate, is nothing but God’s digestive system.

And with that, I toss Monsieur Cendrars into the oubliette.