Born in Switzerland in 1887, Frédéric Louis Sauser left school at seventeen for a life of adventure in Russia. He began writing in St. Petersburg while working for a Swiss watchmaker. Three years later he returned to Switzerland, left again for Paris, spent a year in New York, and in 1912 made his prodigal return to Paris, where he embarked on his career as a full-time poet.
Throughout his life, Sauser struggled to make sense of his mercurial tendencies in relationship to his adopted home. Wishing to transcend his bourgeois background and striving to lead the life of an artist, he changed his name to Blaise Cendrars (braises means “embers,” cendres “ashes”). “Writing is being burned alive, but it also means a rebirth from the ashes,” he proclaimed.