Blaise Cendrars’ first-person narratives

36e8c414-43d9-11e4_1097148hRichard Sieburth at The Times Literary Supplement:

Inspired by his shipboard reading of Baudelaire’s “Mon Coeur mis à nu” and Goethe’s Dichtung und Wahrheit, the forty-page logbook of “Mon Voyage en Amérique” contains the germ of all of Cendrars’s future autobiographical writings, staging as it does the phoenix-like (and deeply Christian) drama whereby the ashes of a former self are converted into a blaze of resurrection. As he glimpses the lighthouses of New York Harbor after three weeks at sea, the poet cries out rhapsodically: “C’est une nouvelle naissance! Je vois des feux briller, comme à travers l’épaisseur de la chair . . . . Je me souviens, je me souviens des splendeurs apparues . . . . Vais-je crier ainsi qu’un nouveau-né? . . .” He signed the first text he wrote on his arrival with his new baptismal name: “Blaise Cendrart” (the final “s” would appear a year later) – perhaps derived from the copy of Villon he carried with him (“A mal, être ars et mis en cendre”) or a reminiscence of Nietzsche’s Ecce Homo (“Und alles wird mir nur zur Asche / Was ich liebe, was ich fasse”). Beneath a quickly sketched self-portrait he scrawled “Je suis l’autre!” – the very phrase that Gérard de Nerval (another literary hero) had once inscribed next to a lithograph of his likeness. From which Cendrars drew the Schopenhauerian corollary, often quoted in his work: the world is my representation.

more here.