if you still harbour childhood fantasies of becoming French at the age of fifty-three, a real poet with a jaunty cap and a scarf and Gitanes, or if you still harbour childhood fantasies of finding meaning and purpose out there instead of in here and anyway I was reading him this morning, the morning after the election, the morning after we lost hope and I saw that the French for ‘Art Nouveau furniture’ is ‘Mobilier modern-style’ and this pleased me in a way only someone continually searching for meaning and purpose out there can be pleased by something that suggests an Olympian overseer with a wry mind focused on the trivial is sitting up there and watching.
So yes: I loved the poem Cendrars left me to read fifty-four years after his death but I’m still wondering what a ‘trellised bandstand’ is (‘un kiosque en treillage’) and whether the magic roundabout of my childhood was trellised or not and, if it was, whether that was a good thing nd if ‘bandstand’ is the correct translation for ‘kiosque’ anyway.
They say Cendrars was a whaler once and fought at the Somme. He lost an arm and wrote “I like legends, dialects, mistakes of language, detective novels, the flesh of girls, the sun, the Eiffel Tower”. And I agree with him on all but one of those. When I wake up tomorrow morning, it’s possible I’ll find I’ve never heard of Cendrars and that we all got the result we wanted.