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Philippe Soupault, Lost Profiles: Memoirs of Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism

Translated from French by Alan Bernheimer
(City Lights, 2016)

Illustration by Drea Cofield.
Illustration by Drea Cofield.

The gentlest of renegades, the most tender of the French avant-garde poets, the co-author of the first literary work of automatic writing (The Magnetic Fields, 1920), Philippe Soupault was a central figure in both the Dada and Surrealist movements but throughout his long life walked under no banner except the one of artistic freedom. In this previously untranslated book, he gives us a collection of richly remembered portraits of some of his best-loved friends from the old days of the new modernism. A young disciple of the short-lived Apollinaire, the translator of the “Anna Livia Plurabelle,” section of Joyce’s Finegan’s Wake, the son of one of Proust’s À l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs, Soupault crossed paths with nearly everyone from that time whose name is still remembered today. As a glimpse into that time, these lost portraits are invaluable—and often deeply moving. The chapter about Proust alone is worth the price of admission, and then there is more—much more—packed into the pages of this small, indelible book. Bravo to Alan Bernheimer for having given it to us.


Paul Auster