Monday, January 07, 2013

Bizarre, but Appealing

Dan Yack
Dan Yack 

"I shall write a novel-novel, and I won't appear in it, because they don't see but one character in all my books: Cendrars! L'Or is Cendrars; Moravagine is Cendrars; Dan Yack is Cendrars—I'm annoyed with this Cendrars! Anyway, one shouldn't believe that the novelist is incarnated in his characters—Flaubert isn't Madame Bovary. "  -- Blaise Cendrars, the Paris Review, "The Art of Fiction No. 38"

Literary modernism included an broad array of different authorial styles, each writer breaking new ground. One of those writers whose style resonates well for this reader is Blaise Cendrars. His novel Dan Yack can be described: "The style is bizarre, full of paradoxes and piquant and ingenious ideas." Thus one of Dan Yack's acquaintances describes a curious book of poetry and in so doing provides an apt description of Cendrars' novel. Every page presents anomalies, curiosities, phrases whose bizarre irrationality gradually becomes the reader's expectation. The opening scene includes champagne corks and witnesses Dan Yack in a drunken spree where the "gilt rods that held the red carpet in place stabbed his brain"(p 10). The adventures of Yack with three artists, poet and musician and sculptor, on his schooner to Antarctica provide entertainment enough for the reader of this slight tome.
Reality continually merges with hallucinatory moments and the rush that the characters live provides delight for the reader. I am not sure why I find Cendrars' absurdities both humorous and appealing. They remind me of my own dreams and Cendrars said of himself: "I'm not an extraordinary worker, I'm an extraordinary daydreamer. I exceed all my fantasies—even that of writing." (from an Interview in the Paris Review)
Dan Yack is a gem--short, sweet, and bizarre.

Dan Yack by Blaise Cendrars, Nina Rootes, trans.  Michael Kesend Publishing, 1987 (1927)
The Paris Review, "Blaise Cendrars, The Art of Fiction No. 38."

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