Next month, City Lights will publish Lost Profiles: Memoirs of Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism, a series of reminiscences and miniportraits of modernist writers and artists—Blaise Cendrars, James Joyce, Pierre Reverdy, and others—by Philippe Soupault, a Dadaist who, with André Breton, wrote Les Champs magnétique in 1919, kicking off the Surrealist movement. Soupault’s sketches in Lost Profiles were originally published in French in 1963; this translation, by Alan Bernheimer, marks their first appearance in English.
The personal impressions Soupault provides of these “great” men, who comprise his contemporaries and his heroes, elucidate their individuality, the nature of their friendship, and essential qualities that underpin their artistic reputations. He writes, for instance, that critics’ use of the terms primitive and Sunday painter in describing Henri Rousseau perpetuated a misunderstanding of the man, despite his artistic success. The cause of the misunderstanding is simply that “no one has yet tried to depict the true personality of Henri Rousseau.” In his afterword, Ron Padgett recalls meeting Soupault in the seventies, when he performs the same service for his own literary hero, observing that Soupault’s “personal manner was a reflection of the lightness of touch of his best poems, a delicacy that is so artful that it never calls attention to itself.” —Nicole Rudick Read More