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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a fascinating and possibly essential study
This is an outstandingly good study of the immediate origins of early 20th-century artistic movements and writing. A chapter of biography of one of the four is followed by an evaluation of his work, but the book is so smoothly written that one scarcely notices the scheme of it.The lives are of course rivetingly interesting. Shattuck conveys the pathos in each one...
Published on 30 Jun. 2009 by monica

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3.0 out of 5 stars Probably a well-written and well researched book on this subject ...
Probably a well-written and well researched book on this subject, but one which has left me with less patience and understanding of the four artistic creators and their era. I will complete the book, as it has introduced and put into context a number of other artistes within the era, but am finding the book difficult to follow and lacking in contemporary interest.
Published 7 months ago by Janet Perkins


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a fascinating and possibly essential study, 30 Jun. 2009
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This review is from: The Banquet Years: The Origins of the Avant Garde in France, 1885 to World War 1 (Paperback)
This is an outstandingly good study of the immediate origins of early 20th-century artistic movements and writing. A chapter of biography of one of the four is followed by an evaluation of his work, but the book is so smoothly written that one scarcely notices the scheme of it.The lives are of course rivetingly interesting. Shattuck conveys the pathos in each one depressingly well but his joy in the works almost dispels the melancholy strain.

I found nothing remotely dry in the writing: it seemed to me to strike a good balance between the evocative and the informative. I only wish I had read this as a teenager, before I began to delve into writings and art of the following decades; I would have been spared a good deal of puzzlement. If ever you've failed to 'get' early 20th-century art, the last two chapters in particular are an excellent introduction.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The French artists who finally broke the mould, 6 Mar. 2015
By 
rob crawford "Rob Crawford" (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Banquet Years: The Origins of the Avant Garde in France, 1885 to World War 1 (Paperback)
For anyone who is fascinated by the multifaceted artistic flowering in France that began in the late 19C, this book is a must read. It is about the emergence of an avant-garde, which began soon after the Impressionists and culminated later in Modernism and Surrealism. Shattuck attempts to explain this through 4 artists (Satie, Rousseau, Apollinaire, and Jarry).

I am not sure that I got it completely, but this is what I came away from after a long and enjoyful read. What the 4 artists had in common was that they created a movement that was entirely self-referential rather than embedding itself in known (or expected) forms of discipline. Each of their visions was subjective, based on their inner worlds more than observation of the outside world. Anyone who looked at, listened to, or read their work would encounter their personal vision. Each artist expressed emotion, knowledge and projection of self with its own particular beauty. What they expressed was knowable in a single instance: they did not depend on conventional processes, but each part was a whole unto itself, to the point that there wasn't a beginning and end, just the present perception of the work.

This is best exemplified, I think, in Satie's later music. In stark contrast to traditional forms, which followed an introduction, buildup, and climax, Satie strove to evoke a mood at each instant. You don't have to listen to the whole piece as it unfolds, but merge with the emotion he is expressing. Apollinaire did similar things with his poetry, Jarry with his alter-ego persona in prose, and Rousseau with his naive primitivism. If I understand it, this is similar to, but a step beyond, Impressionism, in that it is not about perception of the outside world, but a direct link to the artist's subconscious mind. The 4 artists were coeval with the Symbolists, the Cubists who emerged slightly later, and their work came to an abrupt end with WWI, during which other artists continued to work out their ideas with dadaism and other radical refinements of their original visions. From another angle, Freud was analyzing all this in a clinical perspective.

The book is uneven. There are many biographical details that I found interesting, but was not sure of their relevance to the principal arguments, which were never succinctly stated. Much of this remains unclear to me, which is perhaps not a fault of the book, but I do feel I have to seek clearer ideas of how all these movements are inter-related. It didn't help that the only artist of the 4 whose work I truly love was Satie's, and as I discovered, I like his earlier work, which is not even part of the avant-garde that Shattuck purports to explain. I never liked Rousseau's work, Apollinaire seems obscurantist to me, and Jarry I had never heard of.

Recommended. This book is not for everyone, but even non-academics who have a deep interest in the period will find it very worthwhile.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, accurate and elegantly written, 18 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: The Banquet Years: The Origins of the Avant Garde in France, 1885 to World War 1 (Paperback)
Covering an interesting period of time in depth and erudition. It is pleasant to read and It is light in weight too.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Probably a well-written and well researched book on this subject ..., 21 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: The Banquet Years: The Origins of the Avant Garde in France, 1885 to World War 1 (Paperback)
Probably a well-written and well researched book on this subject, but one which has left me with less patience and understanding of the four artistic creators and their era. I will complete the book, as it has introduced and put into context a number of other artistes within the era, but am finding the book difficult to follow and lacking in contemporary interest.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant summary of an exciting time in the arts, 30 Jun. 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Banquet Years: The Origins of the Avant Garde in France, 1885 to World War 1 (Paperback)
Using the four artists as focal points, Shattuck delivers a stimulating book about the emergence of the avant-garde in pre WWI Paris. This is a very readable book, and the cast of characters includes many subsequent giants of the twentieth century. The section on Jarry, in particular, is brilliant, especially in the chronicle of his last strange years.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars entertaining subjects, dull read, 18 Jan. 2002
This review is from: The Banquet Years: The Origins of the Avant Garde in France, 1885 to World War 1 (Paperback)
Given the paucity of information available regarding alfred jarry, this book is an essential read. It is a shame, however, that the book tells the story of jarry etc. in such a mundane fashion. With a cast list that, in addition to the genuine eccentrics of the title, includes Picasso and Stein, and with its tales of war, theft, alcoholism, madness, huge parties and much more, this should have been a wonderful book. But it is not. It is dry and the sections of interpretation (which presumabley were the result of academic research) are frequently tedious. It is still an engaging book, but this is down to the subject matter, and in spite of the treatment they receive.
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2 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dying young without knowing your popularity, 6 May 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: The Banquet Years: The Origins of the Avant Garde in France, 1885 to World War 1 (Paperback)
The lives of four young Frenchmen in the early 20th Century are explored in context with the world around them. The tragedies of existence for four creative forces of our century can only be justified by the gifts of genius they left behind. Jarry, Rousseau, Satie and Apollinaire have given so much to define the 20th Century
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