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This review is taken from PN Review 58, Volume 14 Number 2, November - December 1987.

NO FULL STOPS Pierre Albert-Birot, The First Book of Grabinoulor, translated by Barbara Wright (Atlas Press) £7.95, £4.50pb.

Aware of the new forms, directions, and imperatives being acknowledged for the first time in literary circles towards the end of the First World War, Pierre Albert-Birot coined a phrase - 'L'Esprit moderne' - and in 1916 established a journal - Sic (Sons, idées, couleurs) - which was soon attracting contributions from Apollinaire, Reverdy, Breton, and Aragon. Albert-Birot's own poems ('to be danced and shouted') were influential among the growing group of writers which would in 1924 follow Apollinaire's lead by forming a movement under the banner 'Surréalisme'; and his writing appeared in the first issue of the review of that name. It is refreshing now to come across a work which, though neglected in the interim, can still convey some of the passion of its innovative period.

Albert-Birot conceived his character Grabinoulor in 1918 and made him the subject of a six-book effusion, written partly in unpunctuated prose ('Nature has no full stops') and partly in verse (including poems which take the shape of lips, breasts, bellies, sexual organs). The story (though with no official beginning or end) details the adventures of this fantastic character, at once human and extra-human, who can travel 987,000 years forward in time, pay a visit in the footsteps of Virgil and Dante to the Empire of the Dead (only to find it does not exist), and take on a bizarre variety of shapes as he moves around Paris (in the past, present, and future). But Grabinoulor's appeal is more than ...

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