[jahsonic.com] - [Next >>]

Arthur Rimbaud (1854 - 1891)

Related: French literature - les poètes maudits - poetry - Symbolist literature

"To arrive at the unknown through the disordering of all the senses, that's the point." --Arthur Rimbaud, 1871


Arthur Rimbaud (October 20, 1854–November 10, 1891) was a French poet.

Arthur Rimbaud was born into the rural middle class of Charleville (now part of Charleville-Mézières) in the Ardennes département in northeastern France. As a boy Rimbaud was a restless but gifted student. By the age of fifteen, he had won many prizes and composed original verses and dialogues in Latin.

In 1870 his teacher Georges Izambard became Rimbaud's first literary mentor, and his original verses in French began to improve rapidly. He ran away from home to briefly join the Paris Commune of 1870, which he portrayed in his poem "L'Orgie parisienne ou Paris se repeuple" (the Parisian orgy or Paris repopulates). He returned to Paris in 1871 at the invitation of eminent poet Paul Verlaine, moving briefly into Verlaine's home and then becoming immersed in Parisian street-life as a garrett dweller. Throughout this period he continued to write strikingly modern verses, following the example of Charles Baudelaire.

Rimbaud's and Verlaine's stormy romantic relationship swept them to London in 1872, when Verlaine left his wife and infant son. In 1873, Rimbaud left Verlaine, returned home to Charleville and completed his Une Saison en Enfer (A Season in Hell) in prose, widely regarded as one of the pioneering instances of modern Symbolist writing. In 1874 he returned to London with the poet Germaine Nouveau and assembled his controversial Illuminations, which includes the first two French poems in free verse. After a particularly violent quarrel in Brussels in 1876, Verlaine shot Rimbaud in the wrist and was consequently sent to jail for 18 months.

By then Rimbaud had given up writing, travelling extensively in Europe before becoming a merchant in Abyssinia (modern Ethiopia). He made a small fortune as a gun-runner. Rimbaud contracted gangrene and returned home in 1891, lost a leg and died in Marseilles on November 10. His influence in modern literature, music and art has been pervasive.

His life in Paris was dramatized in a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio called Total Eclipse (1995).

Rimbaud influenced the following artists: French poets in general, the Surrealists, the Beat Poets, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Patti Smith, Penny Rimbaud, Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan, Richard Hell and many more. Van Morrison wrote "Tore Down a la Rimbaud." --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Rimbaud [Jan 2005]

"Dérèglement systématique de tous les sens"

Dans sa "Lettre du Voyant" adressée à Paul Demeny, Arthur Rimbaud explique sa démarche poétique, consistant à dépasser la réalité existante, banale, triviale, et à atteindre une autre vérité, plus haute, par le "dérèglement systématique de tous les sens". --Arthur Rimbaud, lettre du 15 avril 1871 [Feb 2005]

The Senses [...]

Le Dérèglement de tous les Sens, Rimbaud, 1871, letters to Paul Demeny and Georges Izambard

In his letter to Izambard, Rimbaud proclaims,

Maintenant, je m'encrapule le plus possible. Pourquoi? Je veux être poète, et je travaille à me rendre voyant : vous ne comprendrez pas du tout, et je ne saurais presque vous expliquer. Il s'agit d'arriver à l'inconnu par le dérèglement de tous les sens. Les souffrances sont énormes, mais il faut être fort, être né poète, et je me suis reconnu poète. Ce n'est pas du tout ma faute. C'est faux de dire : Je pense : on devrait dire : On me pense. –Pardon du jeu de mots.–

Je est un autre. Tant pis pour le bois qui se trouve violon, et Nargue aux inconscients, qui ergotent sur ce qu'ils ignorent tout à fait! (345-46)

[Now I am going in for debauch. Why? I want to be a poet, and I am working to make myself a visionary: you won't possibly understand, and I don't know how to explain it to you. To arrive at the unknown through the disordering of all the senses, that's the point. The sufferings will be tremendous, but one must be strong, be born a poet: it is in no way my fault. It is wrong to say: I think. One should say: I am thought. Pardon the pun.

I is some one else. So much the worse for the wood that discovers it's a violin, and to hell with the heedless who cavil about something they know nothing about! (xxvii)] -- http://www.genders.org/g32/g32_cole.html [accessed Mar 2004]

Rimbaud: A Biography () - Graham Robb

  • Rimbaud: A Biography () - Graham Robb [Amazon.com]
    When he was not yet 17, Arthur Rimbaud (1854-91) electrified Paris's literary society with the incendiary poems that later made him the guiding saint of 20th-century rebels, from Pablo Picasso to Jim Morrison. "A Season in Hell," "The Drunken Boat," and the prose poems of Illuminations were epochal works that changed the nature of an art form--and yet their author abandoned poetry at age 21 and spent the rest of his short life as a colonial adventurer in Arabia and Africa. "He was writing in a void," explains British scholar Graham Robb. "In 1876, most of Rimbaud's admirers either were still in the nursery or had yet to be conceived." Hardly surprising, since the poet was a difficult and frequently unpleasant person to actually know. The Parisian poets who took him under their wing soon discovered that Rimbaud was ungrateful, crude, and as scornful of their precious verse as he was of the Catholic Church, bourgeois proprieties, and everything else his disapproving mother held dear. Rimbaud's stormy affair with Paul Verlaine estranged the older poet from his wife and, eventually, from most of his artistic friends as well. In Robb's depiction, the poet possessed from his earliest youth a restless, searching intellect that permitted no compromise with convention nor tenderness for others' weaknesses. The author doesn't soften Rimbaud's "savage cynicism" or gloss over his frequently obnoxious behavior, yet Robb arouses our admiration for "one of the great Romantic imaginations, festering in damp, provincial rooms like an intelligent disease." Like Robb's excellent biographies of Hugo and Balzac, this sharp, subtle, unsentimental portrait is both erudite and beautifully written. --Wendy Smith via Amazon.com

    Total Eclipse (1995) - Agnieszka Holland

    Total Eclipse (1995) - Agnieszka Holland [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    Total Eclipse is a 1995 movie directed by Agnieszka Holland that depicts a fictionalized account of the intense but also abusive homosexual relationship between the two 19th century French poets, Paul Verlaine (David Thewlis) and Arthur Rimbaud (Leonardo DiCaprio), a time when both of them experienced a height of creativity.

    Director Holland has built a reputation of making films that are really good or bad. In this case, most critics felt that the latter was the case. The most common criticism was that the film never explained the importance of these two great poets' works, especially their role in the development of the decadence or symbolism movement. The film did little for character development aside from showing the two famous French poets acting as if they were modern American college students on spring break.

    Critics also felt that the film created a limited sense of what life was like in late nineteenth century Europe. It ignores important parts of the two poets' history, before and after they met, and thus makes it even harder to understand why a film about their lives was made. Thus, if you are not familiar with late nineteenth century French history, you are not going to understand or appreciate what is happening in the film.

    Critics did generally feel that the acting, musical score and cinematography were all well done, although some felt that DiCaprio played the character too closely to his role in the film The Basketball Diaries. Gay film critics noted how the film allowed the two poets to come out of the closet and made a point to deal with the gay and straight love scenes as if they were morally equal.

    The Motion Picture Association of America gave the film an R rating for profanity, nudity, violence, drug usage, and simulated heterosexual and homosexual sex scenes. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_Eclipse_%28film%29 [Jan 2006]

    See also: French literature - gay cinema - Arthur Rimbaud - 1870s

    your Amazon recommendations - Jahsonic - early adopter products

    Managed Hosting by NG Communications