Blaise Cendrars

The themes of Cendrars’ work resemble those of the floating world – vagabonding, travel, daily work of ordinary people, criminals and pilgrims all of which are used to evoke the contrary, i.e. the unascertainable, ephemeral world. Cendrars greatest con was convincing the world that he wasn’t mystical. But he was mystical in the grounded way of the Chinese rock-bottom man.
Cendrars once uttered “J’ai l’horreur de l’Orient”. This phrase was a decoy, used to mask the fact that he drew directly from the concrete, contemplative style of the great woodblock artists.
Asai Ryōi, a late 17th century  writer of Kanazoshi, described the “floating world” in the following manner:
“Living solely in present time, delivering oneself fully up to the contemplation of the moon, snow, cherry blossoms and the darkening maple leaves, singing, drinking, enjoying life… this is what we call the Floating World”.
Thus, Cendrars should not be read as literature, still less as a novel, perhaps not even as poetry, but as something akin to a description of the floating world, Ukiyo-e. He is to be enjoyed without looking for familiar literary devices – they are largely absent. His technique is plastic.
Hiroshige, like Cendrars, dealt with landscape (nature, air, light, atmosphere) not as décor for a narrative, but simply something for himself. That allowed him to integrate characters, himself, his thoughts, into a jumbled disorder that pleased him and corresponded to no known literary dictates. Both men are illusionists, conjuring up images for themselves. This is the meaning of the phrase by Cendrars:
« On a beau ne pas vouloir parler de soi-même, il faut parfois créer. »
An American claims to have translated all of Cendrars’ poetry. This is the equivalent of taking all the koans and haikus of history and feeding them into a shredder. Translating one poem of Cendrars properly, is like walking the Tokaido alone. To do more is to pluck the petals of a rare flower and watch them die in your hands.
In August 1910, Cendrars wrote that Rémy de Gourmont was the first writer who had created his own readers.
This is another key to Cendrars. The path he embarked on was solitary and contemplative. Gourmont’s inspiration was not as a writer. Gourmont as a writer is interesting, original, but stylistically it is conventional. It is his fierce solitude, gripping to his own path that held appeal for Cendrars. Both men were concerned with life, and both saw the miraculous in what was human.