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Moravagine (Modern Classics) Paperback – 27 Sep 1979
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|Paperback, 27 Sep 1979||
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Praise for Blaise Cendrars "Moravagine seeks damnation and extinction with a glee unequaled in literature. The only parallels that come to mind are Celine and Beckett."
"Rip-roaring fiction and imaginative adventuring on all planes of experience."
-- Times Literary Supplement
"Moravagine seeks damnation and extinction with a glee unequaled in literature. The only parallels that come to mind are Celine and Beckett."
-- Sven Birkerts, New Boston Review
"An unbridled picaresque fantasy...full of tenderness, horror, and ink-black jokes of a visual intensity that recall Goya."
-- Financial Times
"Savage, funny, wildly inventive."
-- John Lehmann, Sunday Telegraph --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Blaise Cendrars (1887-1961) was the pseudonym of Frederic Sauser, the Swiss son of a French Anabaptist father and a Scottish mother. As a young man he traveled widely, from St. Petersburg to New York and beyond, and these wanderings proved the inspiration of much of his later poetry and prose. Settled in Paris in 1912, Cendrars published two long poems, "Easter in New York" and "The Transsiberian," which made him a major figure in the poetic avant-garde. At the outset of World War I, he enlisted in the French Foreign Legion, losing an arm in the battle of the Marnes. A prolific poet, Cendrars was also an exceptional novelist, the author of Moravagine, Gold, Rhum, and The Confessions of Dan Yack, among many other books.
Paul La Farge is the author of two novels: The Artist of the Missing, and Haussmann, or the Distinction, which was a New York Times Notable Book for 2001. His third book, The Facts of Winter, was in January 2005. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
This is a bold and entertaining novel written in a muscular style which is at once insightful, direct and, I suppose, pretty harsh in its outlook. Yes it could be said that, as a whole, it doesn't quite hang together - for instance: Moravagine's character seems to shift between Jack the Ripper, Quasimodo and Hugh Hefner, and sometimes he (Moravagine) appears to be tacked on as a freakish sideshow to the narrator's strange adventures and anarchistic thoughts.
All in all I'd define the novel as an intense, flamboyant and peculiar vision, flawed only by its untamed ambition.
This is a tale not so much of Moravagine himself but of the unnamed psychiatrist narrator (Cendrars himself makes a cameo entrance near the end of the story) who travels with him. Moravagine is a 28 year old psycho locked up by his Austrian royal family in 1894 for murdering his arranged bride and other associated madness behaviour like killing his dog on a whim. The narrator seems to fall fascinated with Moravagine and quickly helps him to escape; Moravagine takes the opportunity to murder the first young girl he meets. The pair then undertake travels first to Berlin (which ends in a murder spree). They then go for a long period in Russia engaging in the revolutionary turmoil; a key character is a woman Mascha who Moravagine falls for. It is in Russian that Moravagine seems to control himself and thereafter appears to cease his mad murdering transposing as it were this to the violent era; the narrator and Moravagine appear to be quite happy to plant bombs - they end up needing to make a hasty escape to England and then America. They then meet Lathuille who takes them up the river Orinoco and some adventure with the head shrinking native Indians ensues - here Moravagine is most normal perhaps. The couple arrive in Paris to join WW1; Moravagine becomes a pilot and the narrator a soldier (there I'll say no more so as not to spoil the ending for you).
I started thinking the tale was going to be really really good but, after an initial excellent start, for me it never quite worked, and as a story I didn't really care so much for the characters or its varied and unreal style by the end. Moravagine's madness didn't dominate as much as I expected and he was neither villian nor anti-hero. There are clearly some clever, subtle and not so subtle reflections, contrasts and ideas in the narrative but somehow I always felt I was missing something (perhaps Cendrars just wasn't getting enough and wanted some 'more-vaginas'?).
Here are a couple of quotes that caught my attention and perhaps together summarise the book: "Good and evil shake my prison, and anonymous suffering too, that perpetual motion that defies nature's laws" and secondly "Woman is masochistic. The sole principle of life is masochism and masochism is the principle of death. For which reason existence is idiotic, imbecile and vain, without ultimate purpose. And life is futile."