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ISBN 978-0-9567359-4-2
First published January 2012; 146 pp
paperback with endpapers; 198 x 129 mm
£8.99
click here to read a pdf excerpt.
Guillaume Apollinaire, born in Rome in 1880, travelled widely in Europe before settling in Paris in 1899 and becoming a champion of Picasso, Braque, Duchamp and many other artists. He enlisted in the French army in 1914; he suffered a shrapnel head wound in 1916, and died in Paris two years later.
 
Beverley Bie Brahic is a poet and translator (Cixous, Derrida, Roubaud). A Canadian, she lives in Paris and Stanford, California. Her translation of selected poems by Francis Ponge, Unfinished Ode to Mud (CBe, 2008) was a finalist for the 2009 Popescu Prize for European poetry in translation; her second book of poetry, White Sheets, shortlisted for the 2012 Forward Prize, is also available from CBe.
Click here to visit B B Brahic’s website.


 
Guillaume Apollinaire  The Little Auto
translated by Beverley Bie Brahic
 
Winner of the 2014 Scott Moncrieff Prize for translation

      Just as they were posting the mobilization orders
      We understood my comrade and I
      That the little auto had driven us into a New Era
      And although we were both already grown men
      We had just been born


In late 1914 Apollinaire swapped the high life of avant-garde Paris for the mud and desolation of war in the trenches. But his poems of this period are wholly different from those that for English readers have come to define the genre of war poetry: exploding shells are compared to champagne bottles, and juxtaposed with the orgy of destruction are nostalgia for antiquity, impatience for the future, melancholy and exuberance.

Apollinaire died in 1918. The new translations in this bilingual edition comprise mostly poems written after 1914, but include ‘Zone’ (in the first English version since Samuel Beckett’s to match the original’s use of rhyme) and some other pre-war poems. A century later, they remain as daring and alive as when they were written.

‘Apollinaire’s is a poetry which invites you, and the world, in, instead of rejecting it in fastidious disdain . . . This beautifully produced yet cheap book is a way of reminding us about [his] genius, and showing us that high, ground-breaking art does not have to be intimidating or forbidding.’
     – Nicholas Lezard, Guardian

‘Apollinaire is the original cubist cabaret singer, all Gemütlichkeit and vibrato one minute and all shock-of-the-new photomontage and post-decadent absinthe hangover the next … In The Little Auto, Beverley Bie Brahic has concentrated mainly on later Apollinaire. The title poem describes a car journey from Deauville to Paris in August 1914 in which ‘we bid farewell to a whole era’. Sniffing poilitical change in the wind, the dogs are howling over the borders … Apollinaire was fairly in the thick of it in what followed (having requested a transfer from Nîmes to the front), but makes an instructive contrast with the Anglophone lot. There is no straight opposition between the horrors of war and the pleasures of innocence and vainglory indulged in at a safe distance from the chevaux de frises

     Between The Little Auto and her versions of Francis Ponge (An Unfinished Ode to Mud), Brahic has made herself an invaluable conduit, well on her way to doing for French poetry what Michael Smith has done for Spanish or Michael Hofmann for German. The Little Auto is an entirely delightful production, and we should humble ourselves anew before the little ‘thunder’s palaces’ to which Apollinaire compared his wonderful poems.’ 

     – David Wheatley, The Yellow Nib

‘Poet and pornographer, heretic and decorated war hero, Apollinaire was Cubism in action: eliding time and space in a single image, rhyming the profane with the profound . . . Writing as an infantryman during WW1, he seemed to humbly declare war on the very imagery of war – hewing trenches from nougat, hearing the popping of champagne corks in the barrage of bombs, and envisaging the souls of the fallen stitched together like pelts in a fur coat – juxtaposing the surreal and the all-too-real to give fresh sense of a senseless time, and find grace where there was only disgrace. Beverley Bie Brahic’s chiming new translations deliver these dispatches from the front line and the avant-garde, still vivid as a first kiss, livid as a raw wound.’
    – Poetry Book Society Bulletin


The photos below are from a brief movie film made in a coin-operated street booth on the day that Apollinaire (wearing the hat) and his friend André Rouveyre
returned to Paris from Deauville in August 1914, following the announcement of general mobilization.