Letters to Madeleine collects for the first time in English the remarkable letters and poems sent by French poet Guillaume Apollinaire to his fiancée Madeleine Pagès during World War I. Stationed in the trenches of Champagne, this man of letters who had been at the forefront of the surrealist movement was transformed overnight into an artilleryman.
The fascinating correspondence bears witness to the typical yet deeply idiosyncratic experience of Apollinaire at an especially crucial moment of his existence as man and artist. Apollinaire shares with Madeleine his thoughts on art and literature from Racine to Tolstoy, and at the same time he uniquely documents the daily life of a soldier at the front during the Great War. As well, the letters reveal intimate and little-known aspects of Apollinaire’s personality—from his childhood and tastes to his grandest aesthetic ideas.
Writing about the letters in his biography of Apollinaire, Francis Steegmuller noted, “Nowhere, is there a more ‘living picture’ of a poet in a war . . . or, outside of Stendhal, a more vivid picture of war itself.” Letters to Madeleine is a moving portrait of a poet facing one of humanity’s starkest realities, and it will be of interest to not only fans of Apollinaire but those interested in personal accounts of World War I as well.