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The Banquet Years: The Origins of the Avant-Garde in France, 1885 to World War I

4.1  ·  Rating Details ·  525 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
Portrays the cultural bohemia of turn-of-the-century Paris who carried the arts into a period of renewal and accomplishment, who laid the ground-work for Dadaism and Surrealism.
Paperback, 448 pages
Published June 12th 1968 by Vintage (first published 1960)
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Dec 16, 2012 AC rated it it was amazing
Shelves: modernism
(I've now reread the important chapter 11, and so will append my notes, in case they should prove useful to anyone -- apologies in advance for whatever typos/errors there are -- I don't have the patience to proofread most of the time...)

First let me say this is an excellent book - probably the best I've read so far on the topic. In addition to a detailed introduction (chs. 1-2), and an illuminating conclusion (chs. 11-12), the book contains detailed studies of the personalities and art of Henri
Nov 08, 2007 Tosh rated it it was amazing
Excellent introduction of the eccentric artists that sort of tore a hole though turn of a century Paris. Erik Satie, Roussel (the painter), Alfred Jarry - all nutty as hell, and fantastic as well. Sort of what we call now 'outsider' artists - they lead a revolution that is still felt today.

This book was written in the 60's and still is in print. It is an extremely entertaining read and just makes you want to listen to Satie, etc.
Apr 07, 2008 tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
Biographies of Alfred Jarry, Henri Rousseau, Erik Satie, & Guillaume Apollinaire - all creative people in Paris active from 1885 to 'WWI'. I LOVED this bk. I had just turned 22 when I read it. I was substantially familiar w/ all the characters & was engrossed by them. Satie & Jarry were both esp important to me. Rousseau & Apollinaire not so much so but still of interest. Shattuck clearly knows & loves the subject & writes about it well. The intertwining of these ...more
Oct 17, 2008 Tom rated it it was amazing
Very nice mix of narrative, cultural commentary and critical analysis. If you have any interest in pre-war arts scene in Paris or avant-garde in general, I strongly recommend this one. A rigorous but accessible book. Shattuck writes very well. (see also Shattuck's Forbidden Knowledge)
Stewart Tame
Jun 12, 2016 Stewart Tame rated it liked it
Hurm. This one was a slog. I seized a chance to read it, intending to extend my knowledge of modern art even further into the past, my previous cutoff point being Dada and Surrealism. I knew a few things about folks like Rousseau, Satie, Jarry, and Apollinaire, and wanted to know more. I did get that, but Shattuck serves it all up with thick slabs of thoroughly footnoted academic prose. Fair put me to sleep, it did. I can tolerate a certain degree of dense text in the name of learning about the ...more
Emer Martin
Jul 09, 2014 Emer Martin rated it it was amazing
I read this book every seven years to remind me what it is to be an artist.
Apollinaire, Satie, Rousseau and Jarry. Never the central figures, not Picassos or Cezannes perhaps, but more reliable practitioners cannot be found. I don't think you get to Duchamp without these industrious kiddies setting the tone ...

A mad-hatter's tea-party, an atheist's rosy cross, a flaming arrow in the forehead of the status quo. Visit, for the logical dissonance, but stay for the majestic squalor.

Four absolute madmen and their relentless pursuit of the avant in all the itchiest, most w
Eddie Watkins
Oct 08, 2014 Eddie Watkins rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art-lit-studies
An often overlooked fact: Henri Rousseau was a studly ladies' man.
Stephen AB
Sep 14, 2016 Stephen AB rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, proust-reading
17th August 2016: I've started this to get a feeling for the background of Proust's work. Shattuck's introductory chapter breathlessly gallops through some of the main highlights and personages of the age, and I thought that yes, Berma must be inspired by Bernhardt (there's a brilliant recording of her performing Phèdre on YouTube, and this is performed on young Marcel's first visit to the theater, what he yearned to experience for years); Shattuck also mentions a courtesan which sounds similar ...more
Given the subject matter, The Banquet Years was surprisingly accessible. One comes away with a more nuanced picture of modernism, surrealism, cubism, and other artistic modes most commonly associated with the twentieth century through four early "avant garde" figures: Henri Rousseau, Erik Satie, Alfred Jarry, and Guillaume Apollinaire. They represent both a variety of artistic genres (painting, music, drama, poetry) and a progression through time from the late nineteenth century to the early twe ...more
Dec 18, 2008 Bob rated it it was amazing
Like a foundling baby, a basket of books turned up on the doorstep of my building - who is this neighbor who discards things I would cross a river (by subway) to obtain?

I read a borrowed copy of this some years ago and mentally filed it as one of those books any decent cultural history shelf should have and yet was somehow unobtainable (Anthony Heilbut's excellent "The Gospel Sound" held a similar spot but I found that as well last year). Whether I could in fact have mail-ordered a copy from Po
Jul 06, 2007 Katievida rated it it was amazing
I go back to this book when spirits are low and my nostalgia needs to be met by descriptions of another place and time-namely Paris during the turn of the 20th century. Descriptions of Henri Rouseau and Eric Satie are flawless and read in certain passages with more of a narrative concern than for the sake of historical accuracy. It's as if its author transcends his subject matter for more romantic notions of the characters that made Parisian bohemia a idea of longing for generations to follow. ...more
Sep 18, 2012 Suzanne rated it liked it
Oh artists! Never has such a flattering portrayal of the rat-infested, syphilis spawning, opiate hazed backwaters of turn of the century Montmarte been written. Clearly Shattuck wishes he was born into la vie boheme than his own time. That being said, past the ass kissing is some interesting details on the often eccentric and brilliant men who ushered the avant garde into our 20th century consciousness. Yahoo!
Rhonda Hankins
This book was a challenge for me to read because I was largely unfamiliar with the era and these four individuals. I read a hard copy of the book and referenced my iPad frequently to get more detail, see examples of their work, try to get a better understanding of the whole scene.

Ultimately very definitely worth the effort. MUch to my surprise and delight, I'm very much an Erik Satie fan now, nice result that makes me happy I took the time to read this one.
Dec 06, 2012 Laurel rated it really liked it
Fascinating history of an exciting time for art, literature, music and drama. Shattuck chooses four representatives from each of those fields to illustrate the era: Henri Rousseau, Guillaume Apollinaire, Erik Satie, and Alfred Jarry. If you loved the characters of the Belle Epoque in Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" this will give you a fascinating look into the main players of that time.

Jun 04, 2010 Lori rated it it was amazing
Am reading this for the third time and listening to Satie, dreaming into rousseau, and wrote two papers on Jarry, and ready to rediscover Appolinaire.

These are the four figures of the Belle Epoque who went on to influence Modernism so much.

Read it the first time while living in Paris.
Nov 19, 2013 Dean rated it it was amazing
Pretty cool book, but it was dense in quite a few spots. But I learned so much about these four characters - definitely worth the effort. I likely will revisit this book to refresh my memory regarding what these artists accomplished.
Keith Michael
Sep 21, 2010 Keith Michael rated it really liked it
a really insightful read about an intimidating subject. Shattuck effortlessly keeps pace with the tumultuousness of Paris at the turn of the century, and provides the context for its emerging art scene. i learned a lot!
Jun 11, 2008 CathyD rated it it was amazing
Stories of poets that only eat white foods? An artist that is consistently made fun of, even invited to the center of government as a joke? The advent of background music? This book has everything. It's funny. It's smart. It's even a fast read. I would recommend it 100%.
Dec 09, 2008 Deena rated it really liked it
I have finished the bios on Eric Satie and Alfred Jarry. The eccentricities! Also, the first chapter on the time period is excellent. How I wish (in some ways) that I was in Paris during the turn of the century at the cafés and salons.
Sara Zoellick
Feb 13, 2011 Sara Zoellick rated it it was amazing
Recommended to author Christopher Moore at Milwaukee book signing. He put it in his blackberry, pretty cool!
The origins of the Avant-Garde in France 1885- WWI
Jun 09, 2008 Walid marked it as to-read
read the part on jarry for a paper back in college and i loved it. i guess i should read the rest now.
Fred Sampson
Jun 22, 2013 Fred Sampson rated it it was amazing
Brilliant critique of four major contributors to the French avant-garde. Glad I waited to read it until I could really appreciate the history and backdrop of Paris.
Sep 11, 2013 Joseph rated it really liked it
i haven't read this book in over 20 years, but i do remember it was a great survey of a very fertile period in art and literature.
Mar 07, 2015 Jennyb rated it liked it
Shelves: artfully-done
This was somewhat difficult to get through, but the thesis is interesting: using authors, musicians and artists to demonstrate how their art defined the ethos of an age. It was worth finishing.
Sep 19, 2008 Sarah added it
I love this book, from which, up till now, I've only read excerpts. It is increasingly (the further along I get into it) in my top-5 fav. books about modernism.

Nov 05, 2008 Liz rated it really liked it
Shelves: academic, true-story
um, I really enjoyed reading it? I'm as surprised as anyone. I was all, "yeeeaaahh french people and I've heard of some of them, yee haw, I'll read this all the time" and yep.
Brilliant insight into this fascinating time period in France. A must-read for French literary scholars.
Robyn Nicol
Robyn Nicol rated it really liked it
Apr 21, 2009
John rated it really liked it
Jan 05, 2008
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