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

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  661 ratings  ·  45 reviews
The definitive chronicle of the origins of French avant-garde literature and art, Roger Shattuck's classic portrays the cultural bohemia of turn-of-the-century Paris who carried the arts into a period of renewal and accomplishment and laid the groundwork for Dadaism and Surrealism. Shattuck focuses on the careers of Alfred Jarry, Henri Rousseau, Erik Satie, and Guillaume ...more
Paperback, 397 pages
Published June 12th 1968 by Vintage (first published 1960)
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Apr 16, 2011 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
Sep 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
One of those marvelous books that you bump into almost by accident, or that a friend of a friend recommends you try (which is what happened to me). This influential and long-lived work by Roger Shattuck profiles four significant creative figures in fin-de-siecle France -- playwright Alfred Jarry, artist Henri Rosseau, composer Erik Satie and poet Guillaume Apollinaire -- and shows how their spirit of revolt led French culture into the Twentieth Century, modernism, a new self-awareness, and ...more
Sep 26, 2018 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Not only does this appear to be an interesting read but this revised edition has an amazing Monty Python style cover.

Looking forward to reading it.
Apr 07, 2008 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
Nov 07, 2007 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.
Sep 14, 2008 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
May 26, 2016 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
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
Emer Martin
Jul 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read this book every seven years to remind me what it is to be an artist.
Jun 14, 2008 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
Stephen B
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
Sanjay Varma
May 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book didn’t grab me immediately so I put it down. I skimmed the Introduction, and chapters on Rousseau and Satie.

In the chapter on Rousseau the only points he made are that the style was called primitivism, and Rousseau was considered to be a simpleton. The chapters on Satie emphasize that his childlike sound conceals complexities in tone, and he revealed a different style in the twilight of his career.
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 ...more
Bill Wallace
Sep 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Paris and art in the years between Impressionism and Surrealism through the lives and work of Rousseau, Satie, Jarry, and Apollinaire, this book tells the story of the birth of the very concept of an avant-garde. I knew something about most of these fellows, except Jarry, who may be the most interesting of the lot, a definite grand-dada of attitudes and postures that would be more familiar a couple of decades later. In general, I preferred the chapters about the men's lives to the chapters about ...more
Jul 06, 2007 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
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.
Sep 18, 2012 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!
Nov 01, 2012 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 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.
Jun 04, 2008 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%.
Jan 31, 2013 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.
Sep 16, 2010 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!
Jul 19, 2008 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.
Jun 09, 2008 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.
William West
Fun portrait of artists whose work, particularly that of Satie, I've always enjoyed.
Jan 05, 2015 rated it liked it
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.
Feb 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Worth reading again every once in awhile.
Jul 17, 2008 rated it liked it
Interesting stories about 4 artists. Their lives were much cooler than their art.
Fred Sampson
Apr 03, 2013 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.
Brilliant insight into this fascinating time period in France. A must-read for French literary scholars.
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