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Blaise Cendrars 6: Sous le signe de Moravagine.

Blaise Cendrars 6: Sous le signe de Moravagine. Ed. by Jean-Carlo Fluckiger and Claude Leroy. (La Revue des Lettres Modernes) Caen: Lettres Modernes Minard. 2006. 274 pp. 915. ISBN 978-2-256-91105-7.

This collection of essays is an important one, not least because it is the first devoted entirely to Moravagine. One way and another, Moravagine preoccupied Cendrars between 1907 and 1958, despite its being published in 1926, and Jean-Carlo Fluckiger opens the sequence with a meticulous and fascinating reconstruction of its intricate gestatory process, indicating those questions still to be answered. Laurence Guyon makes a persuasive case for the novel's Nietzschean inspiration, as Raymond la Science and more especially Moravagine himself, driven by organic, primitive energies, live out the will to power. For Rennie Yotova, it is not so much the Nietzschean superman as the Nietzschean (and Schopenhauerian) misogynist who plays out his drama in these pages: initially animated by matricidal impulses (Rita, Mascha), Raymond and Moravagine reincorporate the feminine through writing and submission to the sadistic regime of Germaine Soyez. This first section, devoted to the monstrous in Moravagine, ends with Anna Gourdet's essay 'Excroissances dans l'imaginaire de Cendrars': while the procreative womb may be the harbinger of death and universal entropy, the digestive, avaginal womb/stomach may be a creative source of a different order, engendering monsters, automata, excrescences; and inasmuch as writing generates its own excrescences--vowels and consonants as organisms--writing itself remains the founding matrix. The second section contains four essays devoted to the wider contextualization of Moravagine. Marie-Paule Berranger shows how Cendrars's depiction of Moravagine's idiocy draws diversely and provocatively on the wide-ranging pathology of idiocy of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (including Tzara's Dada).Christine Le Quellec explores Cendrars's appropriation of the anarchist Franz Blazek's Die Philosophie Golgothas (1906), while Oxana Khlopina investigates Cendrars's familiarity with the literature of Russian terrorism, in particular that of Boris Savinkov, who appears in Moravagine under his pseudonym Ropschine. The final article in this section, by Anouck Cape, asks what the characterization of Moravagine might owe to an anarcho-lunatic criminal like Joseph Vacher, guillotined in December 1898. The third section, 'Approches etmesures', opens with Michele Touret's pursuit of the generical models of Moravagine in popular literature (historical novel, histoire d'explorateurs, novels about complementary doubles, litterature feuilletonesque): displacement and blurring of literary values, writing as an inclusive and unprejudiced art. Regis Tettamanzi compares the treatment of madness--in all its degrees and figurations (war, asylums, delirious utterance)--in Moravagine and Celine's Voyage au bout de la nuit. As Jean-Carlo Fluckiger opened proceedings, so fittingly Claude Leroy closes them, with the proposition that, for the mythomane Cendrars, Moravagine is an avatar of Orion, the redemptive mediator between violence and writing: Orion's constellation, the mark of his punishment, becomes the place of exile of Cendrars's murderous right hand. The fourth section contains unpublished documents and facsimiles relating to the genesis of Moravagine, presented by Fluckiger, and a dossier, collected by Touret, of reviews contemporary with Moravagine's publication, including those of Barbusse, Larbaud and t'Serstevens. All in all, this is an indispensable collection of consistently thought-provoking and penetrating essays on the novel that Paul Husson called a modern version of Dante's Inferno (p. 255).


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Author:Scott, Clive
Publication:The Modern Language Review
Article Type:Book review
Date:Apr 1, 2008
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