Books, First World War

The Mysterious Arthur Cravan

“The Mysterious Arthur Cravan the world’s shortest-haired poet, boxer, hotel-rat, muleteer, snake-charmer, chauffeur, ailurophile, gold-prospector, grandson of the Queen’s Chancellor, nephew of Oscar Wilde…”

was the bellowed recital of accomplishments from the mouth of the English poet-pugilist, Arthur Cravan, as he entered the ring before his boxing bouts in Paris between 1910 and 1914. This mythologizing pedigree may have over-compensated for his underwhelming boxing prowess, but it obeyed one psychological truth: only the exaggerations were true. A macho-aesthete he was a poet amongst boxers, a boxer amongst poets, a fraud and an imposter. André Breton said of him that his life was the best barometer for measuring the impact of the avant-garde between 1912 and 1917. He wrote, edited and distributed editions of a literary magazine which, as prototype Dada, was internationally influential, before dying in 1918 at the age of 31 whilst sailing a boat off the coast of Mexico.
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