Feeling totally isolated and dépaysé in his tiny digs on West 96th Street, unable to find work, he roamed the city, taking in the spectacle of its modernity – the dizzying downtown skyscrapers, the aerial vectors of its subway system, the giant billboards, the vaudeville movie theatres, the electrified nights…

– Richard Sieburth describing Blaise Cendrars’ encounters with New York in a review of Cendrars’ Oeuvres Autobiographiques Complètes ‘Blaise Cendrars in the sky’ in Times Literary Supplement , n.d

 

 INTERVIEWER
All writers complain of the constraint under which they work and of the difficulty of writing.

BLAISE CENDRARS
To make themselves sound interesting, and they exaggerate. They should talk a little more about their privileges and how lucky they are to be able to earn some return from the practice of their art, a practice I personally detest, it’s true, but which is all the same a noble privilege compared with the lot of most people, who live like parts of a machine, who live only to keep the gears of society pointlessly turning. I pity them with all my heart. Since my return to Paris I have been saddened as never before by the anonymous crowd I see from my windows engulfing itself in the métro or pouring out of the métro at fixed hours. Truly, that isn’t a life. It isn’t human. It must come to a stop. It’s slavery … not only for the humble and poor, but the absurdity of life in general.

When a simple character like myself, who has faith in modern life, who admires all these pretty factories, all these ingenious machines, stops to think about where it’s all leading, he can’t help but condemn it because, really, it’s not exactly encouraging.

Blaise Cendrars, in The Art of Fiction No. 38, Interviewed by Michel Manoll in The Paris Review, Issue 37, Spring 1966.

I straighten my papers
I set up a schedule
My days will be busy
I don’t have a minute to lose
I write.

Blaise Cendrars in Complete Poems, 1992, tr. Ron Padgett

“There is no truth. There’s only action, action obeying a million different impulses, ephemeral action, action subjected to every possible imaginable contingency and contradiction. Life.”

– Blaise Cendrars