A skilfully imagined novel based on the scandalous and astonishing life of the pioneering, proto-punk poet Arthur Rimbaud.
About the book
In the space of one year,1871, with a handful of startling poems, Arthur Rimbaud transformed himself from a teenaged bumpkin into the literary sensation of Paris. He was taken in, then taken up, by the older, married poet Paul Verlaine in a passionate affair. When Rimbaud sought to end it, Verlaine, in a jealous rage, shot him. Shortly thereafter, just shy of his twentieth birthday, Rimbaud declared himself finished with literature. His resignation notice was his immortal prose poem 'A Season in Hell'. In time, Rimbaud became a prosperous trader and arms dealer in Ethiopia. But a cancerous leg forced him to return to France, to the family farm, with his sister and loving but overbearing mother. He died aged thirty-seven.Bruce Duffy takes the bare facts of Rimbaud's fascinating existence and brings them vividly to life in a story rich with people, places, and paradox. He conveys, as few ever have, the inner turmoil of this calculating genius of outrage, whose work and untidy life did much to anticipate the twentieth century's culture of rebellion.
Verdict: Intriguing, at times disturbing, and always compelling, Duffy's latest nonfiction novel is hard to put down. Highly recommended for fans of Duffy's other work, including his fictional biography of Wittgenstein, The World as I Found It; those interested in French poetry, history, and historical novels are sure to like this too.
The writers and rockers, the teenage malcontents-Duffy will have many of them at hello. Strongly flavored with the urgent rhythms of the poems themselves, the novel matches the poet's intellectual intensity and inclination to observe, condense, and vivify.
Duffy revels in his intense characters: brilliant and feral Rimbaud, his ogress of a mother and long suffering sister, and, most sympathetically, absinthe-poisoned poet Paul Verlaine, who abandoned his young, pregnant wife for a doomed affair with scoundrel Rimbaud. Impassioned and melodramatic, keenly detailed and hallucinogenic, Duffy's reeling novel avidly encompasses the terror and beauty, despair and ecstasy of high-pitched lives and tradition-shattering art.
There are many lovely touches in Duffy's novel. ... [He] persuasively penetrates the layers of myth and produces characters who suggest the real people they once were
Mr. Duffy's take on the Rimbaud mystery shapes a novel that...pleases. [His] hyperbolic prose style...grows on you