The Writing of Guillaume Apollinaire/Le Style Apollinaire (1934)


Gavronsky, Serge. “Guillaume Apollinaire Subsumed Under Louis Zukofsky’s Gaze: ‘…listening receptively….’” Introduction to The Writing of Guillaume Apollinaire/Le Style Apollinaire (2003): xiii-l.

Waldrop, Rosmarie. “Zukofsky’s Le Style Apollinaire.” Dissonance (if you are interested). University of Alabama Press, 2005. 132-133.


This work was commissioned by LZ’s close friend René Taupin (1905-1981), apparently because the latter needed scholarly publications for his academic career. Originally from France, at the time Taupin was teaching at Columbia University, and he would remain primarily in the U.S. throughout the rest of his life, particularly at Hunter College, NYC. LZ would state that “This ‘collaboration’ was written entirely by L.Z. and the French quotations are also his arrangement. It was consequently translated by R.T. into French, and the French version was published by Les Presses Modernes, Paris, France, 1934” (HRC 17.5). So far it has not been possible to verify the precise nature of the “collaboration,” but it is reasonable to assume that Taupin was at least involved in conversations on the project and no doubt helped obtain the various contemporary French texts mentioned in the work. However, the aggressively non-academic presentation of the work strongly supports LZ’s contention that he was the sole author. The work can be seen as an early experiment in presentation through extensive quotation that will be pursued by LZ in other critical books, most notably in Bottom: on Shakespeare.

LZ appears to have worked on this book during the latter part of 1931, after returning to NYC from his short academic year at the University of Wisconsin, and finished it on 19 April 1932. Two of the three parts of the work were published in The Westminster Magazine 22.4 (Winter 1933) and 23.1 (Spring 1934)—excluding “Part II—Le Poète Ressuscité,” which consists entirely of quotations from throughout Apollinaire’s works. René Taupin’s French translation of the complete work was published as Le Style Apollinaire (Paris: Les Presses Modernes, 1934). In a late interview, CZ claimed that Taupin brought back six copies from Paris, but the rest of the edition was destroyed in a warehouse fire. However, more copies than this clearly exist and how much truth there is in this anecdote in uncertain (Ahearn, “Two Conversations with CZ” 129).

LZ’s notes, besides referencing the numerous quotations from Apollinaire, provide some intriguing indications of LZ’s additional reading. In some cases the references actually indicate undesignated quotations, which is the case, for example, with most of the Dante references in “& Cie” (using the Temple Classics edition of Dante’s Latin Works; the De vulgari eloquentia is translated by A.G. Ferrers Howell).

Bits of the Apollinaire project resurface in other LZ publications. He made an arrangement of brief translated quotations from Apollinaire published as “[Sequence] from ‘The Writing of Guillaume Apollinaire’” in the Columbia Review 15.4 (May 1934), and an abridged rearrangement of this sequence appeared as the final selection of A Workers Anthology (1934-1935). A translation of Apollinaire’s poem, “The Gathering” (La cueillette), which was not used in The Writing of Guillaume Apollinaire, appears as part of the Son’s dialogue in Arise, Arise (14, 18), which also includes fragments of other poems that were included in the “Sequence” (Arise 23, 25, 26). 

Although The Writing of Guillaume Apollinaire in its English version was never published complete in LZ’s lifetime, nor in part subsequent to what appeared in The Westminster Magazine in 1933-34, there is evidence that he continued to consider it a significant critical work. In the early 1970s, LZ put together a proposal for The Portable Zukofsky, a large selection of fiction, poetry and criticism, the latter to include the first and third parts of Apollinaire (HRC 15.3). It is not clear why Apollinaire remained the only significant work unpublished or unrepublished during LZ’s later years. 

A Note on the text:
The Wesleyan University Press publication of The Writing of Guillaume Apollinaire/Le Style Apollinaire (2006) is a hybrid text that attempts to present both LZ’s original composition, based on a corrected typescript at the HRC, along with the published French text. As a note on “How to Read the Text” explains: “The original Zukofsky text The Writing of Guillaume Apollinaire can be read by reading the left pages ONLY, alternating between the French [quotations] and English as Zukofsky intended,” whereas on the facing right-hand pages is Taupin’s translation of Zukofsky’s English text from Le Style Apollinaire alternating with translations into English of the numerous French quotations LZ incorporated into his text. The complexity of this textual presentation created challenges, and unfortunately there are numerous problems, particularly with LZ’s original text. These can be summarized under three types of issues:

1) One would think that the most essential purpose of this edition was to present LZ’s original English text as he wrote it, but this is not what we have here. Throughout there are many local alterations of LZ’s English text, in most cases based on the inexplicable view that it should match Taupin’s French text. It is not surprising that in translating LZ’s text Taupin at times attempted to make it clearer or perhaps was simply baffled by LZ’s meaning, but why the editor would assume the two texts should precisely mirror each other and arbitrarily alter the English text to achieve this is difficult to understand. As a consequence there is no accurate version of LZ’s original text in this edition, which has been compounded by editorial carelessness and there are a couple instances where lines of the typescript simply go missing, along with several notes. For a list of the changes made to the English text go here.

2) The Wesleyan text attempts to regularize punctuation throughout, for example the treatment of titles (italics or quotation marks) and putting quotation marks around all French quotations. However, aside from the inconsistency in doing this based on a typescript that admittedly is itself by no means consistent in its practice, this editing has significantly interfered with the presentation of the text LZ had in mind. There appears no appreciation that LZ’s is an experimental text and a parody of an academic dissertation. Since the base text is in English, any French text would obviously be quotation, and therefore LZ did not feel the need to put all the French text in quotation marks, although sometimes he does. Particularly when he runs English and French together in the same sentence, it seems an unnecessary interference to add in quotation marks. There is also a ubiquitous carelessness in interpreting LZ’s typescript (which in this regard is consist with the printing in The Westminster Magazine): series of hyphens intended to indicate ellipses are turned into dashes, capitalizations are added in, paragraph breaks are added, italics are added in and at other times ignored and various other punctuation altered. The slogan l’esprit nouveau is consistently turned into the title, L’Esprit nouveau, even when that clearly is not LZ’s meaning.

3) Many of the footnote references are scrambled in both Parts I and III. Some in-text numbers are missing, one is inadvertently added and several notes are missing. For corrections to address this particular problem see here.