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By Blaise Cendrars

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Sample text

It was rumoured that there had been a woman in his life, a woman who had tricked him, gobbled him up and betrayed him, a police toady who had shopped him and had him arrested, and this was what had made him 'savage' as they say in white-slavers' jargon of a dealer who has been marked by a woman and, because of this, can never hope to join the 'regulars'. But he was also respected in the bar, on account of his knowledge of science, for it was said on the rue Cujas that he had been a student of chemistry or electro- physics, and it was whispered that he knew how to manufacture bombs and handle explosives.

I asked the waiter. I lit my cigar. The waiter brought me the papers. This is what's known as obtaining goods under false pretences, I said to myself, puffing away at my cigar. It seemed to me that the waiter was watching me now out of the corner of his eye. I buried my nose in the newspapers. But my mind kept wandering and I soon put them down to settle myself more comfortably on the bench. It was only then, as I stretched out my legs, that I noticed my shoes were torn and dirty, and I realized what a poor figure I cut.

In looking for an English title, I took the cue from Cendrars himself, and the reader will find the explanation of 'Planus' on page 45 of the present edition. In cutting the work down to the length suggested by the publishers, I have tried to omit whole sections which are self-contained in the French original rather than nibble piecemeal at the text. I regret the loss of many pieces, but the heart and soul of the book are still here, and I have not allowed myself to lose sight of the two main themes: life and books.

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