CENDRARS (Blaise)Petits contes nègres pour les enfants des blancs.

Paris, Editions des Portiques, [Le Coffret de l'âge heureux], 1928.

8vo, publisher’s printed wrappers, leather-backed chemise and slipcase by Atelier Devauchelle. 109 pp., (3) pp. Complete.

Large paper copy of the First Edition, one of 300 copies on Alpha satiné numbered 91-390 of a total large paper issue of 402 copies.

The author’s famed “Little Black Stories for Little White Children”, a collection ten African folktales which comprises a wide spectrum of subgenres, ranging from fables to droll stories, trickster tales, animal tales, and “contes pour rire” [tales to laugh at], a typical African folktale genre.

Cendrars’ book is exceptional since it is considered one of the first French books written by a non-African author who integrated ideas of the Negritude movement, stressing the sovereignty of the African culture and the black people’s pride about their own art and literature instead of adopting colonialist perspective.

The term “nègre” [negro] in the title is not a racial notion but refers to a common genre category in the 1920s and 1930s, which represents a collective noun for everything that is “non-European” and “foreign”.

Although Cendrars draws upon oral folktales collected by Victor Equilbecq in “Contes indigènes de l’ouest-africain français” [Indigenous Stories from French West Africa] and himself, he largely rewrote the texts in order to adjust them to avant-garde concepts. The book received wide acclaim for the innovative language he invented to convey the onomatopoetic wordplays and atmospheric mood of orally transmitted African folktales. By inserting onomatopoetic expressions, interjections, neologisms, even nonsense words, and series of word repetitions, the author created a speech melody evoking the rhythm of African drums. What makes his work even more meaningful and innovative is the juxtaposition of different languages, giving the reader the impression of the real original language spoken by African people by inserting songs, poems and dialogues that are not translated into French. Cendrars, who regarded himself as a cosmopolite, felt a deep connection with the African continent and learned to speak several African languages fluently. In many ways also, his book exemplifies aspects of the aesthetics of Surrealism by including unexpected juxtapositions and elements of surprise (nonsense words, mixture of languages, abrupt endings, etc.).

Excellent copy.

Ref. Elisabeth Wesseling (Editor), The Child Savage, 1890–2010: From Comics to Games, (2016)

Price: 750,00 euros

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