Lost Profiles: Memoirs of Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism

Philippe Soupault, trans. from the French by Alan Bernheimer. City Lights, $13.95 paper (114p) ISBN 978-0-87286-727-7
Soupault (1897–1990) was a seminal figure in surrealism, inaugurating the movement’s literary phase with André Breton in 1919, when the two published a book of poetry together, Les Champs magnétiques (The Magnetic Fields). In Bernheimer’s graceful translations, Soupault’s little reflections on many of his contemporaries give readers the poet’s own insights into a host of literary giants, such as his fellow surrealist René Crevel (a “trembling creature” with a laugh that was “unbearable” and “a revolt”), the Catholic writer Georges Bernanos (“What fascinated me initially... were his eyes”), and poet Blaise Cendrars (”He chose to be a solitary, with dignity and with insolence”). Soupault recalls Marcel Proust so detesting noise that he rented five rooms in a hotel: “one to live in, the other four to ‘contain’ the silence.” Writing about James Joyce, Soupault records that he suffered greatly to make his art, and states he must be honored for his “resolve” to find “new methods.” For anyone interested in early 20th-century literary and artistic movements, Bernheimer’s translation is a worthy event, but for many these profiles are likely to remain literary novelties of a lost time. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/05/2016
Release date: 11/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
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