We’re really into NYRBs.
Is there an award for best bookstore staff recommendation? Because Green Apple Books would take it year after year.
Here’s a close-up of their Moravagine recommendation and it is a sight to behold.
Notes from NYRB Classics
You’ve announced thirty-three forthcoming books. Why thirty-three?
The list of thirty-three books that I’ve been announcing for forty years is not exclusive, restrictive, or prohibitive; the number thirty-three is the key figure of activity, of life. So this is not at all in ink. If might be an index, but it is not The Index. It doesn’t include the titles of novels which I will never write—the other day I was surprised to discover that La Main coupée, which I published in 1946, had been on this list since 1919. I had completely forgotten that! On the list are books that I will take up again and that will appear in the future. Also listed are the ten volumes of Notre pain quotidien, which are written but that I left in various strongboxes in South American banks and which, God willing, will be found by chance some day—the papers aren’t signed, and are left under a false name. I’ve also listed a group of poems that I value more than my eyes but that I haven’t decided to publish—not by timidity or pride, but for love. And then, there are the books that were written, ready for publication, but which I burned to the great detriment of my publishers: for example, “La vie et la mort du soldat inconnu” (five volumes). Finally, there are the bastards, the larvae, and the abortions which I will probably never write.
—from Blaise Cendrars’s 1966 Paris Review interview
Classics and Coffee Club VIP member Fool on the Planet must be having an emotionally intense summer between the fever dream of Alan Garner’s Red Shift and the, well, fever dream of Blaise Cendrars’s Moravagine.
Diseases are. We do not make or unmake them at will. We are not their masters. They make us, they form us. They may even have created us. They belong to this state of activity which we call life. They may be its main activity. They are one of the many manifestations of universal matter. They may be the principal manifestation of that matter which we will never be able to study except through the phenomena of relationships and analogies. Diseases are a transitory, intermediary, future state of health. It may be that they are health itself.
Sometimes our shelftalkers go missing. Could be that they fall and are kicked under the shelves, or are taken by connoisseurs, or are misplaced by the elves we hire to sprinkle dust around the store overnight (you all know about bookstore elves, right?). Anyway, Clark’s magical shelftalker for Blaise Cendrars’ Moravagine went missing, so he mailed us a new one from his new bookstore in New Orleans, Maple Street Books.
We miss Clark.
We also think you should read this book.
In 1912, at Easter, I was starving in New York, and had been for a number of months. From time to time I took a job, by force of necessity, but I didn’t keep it a week and if I could manage to get my pay sooner than that I quit sooner, impatient to get on with my sessions of reading at the central public library. My poverty was extreme and every day I looked worse: unshaven, trousers in corkscrews, shoes worn out, hair long, coat stained and faded and without buttons, no hat or tie, having sold them one day for a penny in order to buy a plug of the world’s worst chewing tobacco.
The Improvised Life has a charming excerpt from Cendrars’s interview with the Paris Review on writing his masterpiece, Easter in New York, the origins of his nom de plume, as well as a link to the poem in french and english.
In keeping with the tradition of A Different Stripe, we’re obligated to refer you to this picture of Cendrars with his cat.
"A raw, stinking, crawling hunk of fantasy by Blaise Cendrars"
The front and back cover designs of the original English-language translation of Moravagine by Blaise Cendrars, courtesy of the excellent book and art blog 50 Watts.
Click through to see the drawing of Cendrars taped to the first page of the book as well as Paul West’s review of it.
Melting Blaise Cendrars and kitty.