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Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel Paperback – 1 Aug 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books (1 Aug. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843549727
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843549727
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 499,585 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"'A wonderful biography, filled with energy and life, driven as if by a lightning flash... Rimbaud's life was a circle of fire and suffering. This book contains it.' Peter Ackroyd, The Times 'White debunks some of the widely held misconceptions about the original enfant terrible of French poetry... He puts simplicity at the reader's service, yet is not afraid to offer his own startling imagery... Rimbaud shines a light on some of the most beautiful verse in modern poetry.' Financial Times 'White's abiding kinship with Rimbaud give's this restless soul's well-travelled tale new fire.' Vanity Fair 'White retells this unparalleled story in lucid, easy style... His sympathy for Rimbaud, particularly in his late years of exile and loneliness, is often quite moving... A good lively introduction.' Kevin Jackson, Sunday Times"

About the Author

Edmund White is a renowned author and literary and cultural critic. He is the author of biographies of Genet and - in the Penguin Lives series - of Proust, and of eight novels, most recently Hotel de Dream. He teaches at Princeton and lives in New York City.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Ford Ka VINE VOICE on 3 Feb. 2009
Format: Hardcover
This slim volume left me completely lost. My basic problem is in deciding who should be its audience.
If you are in love with Rimbaud you should simply stay away from this book. White does not offer anything you have not heard before - major difference from academic biographies is that he seldom indicates his authorities but for some it may be a plus: there are no boring footnotes. Which, however, does not indicate that it is the result of original research. It is not.
If White is fascinated with Rimbaud he fails to convey this fascination completely. The quality of translations he included is rather doubtful - unless you have a penchant for a vista translations which have little ambition beyond grasping the meaning precisely leaving the form aside (or to be described separately).
If you are in love with White... Well... Hasn't he published a novel recently? Read it instead.
My impressions were eerily similar to those White's Proust left me with - both books could be summed up in the following manner: nothing much happens, nothing much happens, he writes something which when summed up sounds quite trivial, nothing much happens, he dies, some people whose names may ring a bell remember him afterwards, thank you all dear. Plus a bibliography which fails to provide basic data for further research (as if White was painfully aware of the fact that his presentation of the subject matter can hardly make anyone interested in any further research...) in which my favourite part was "most of these books are out of print anyway" - have you ever heard of libraries, honey?
Just one example of "originality".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Philip Herring on 2 Nov. 2011
Format: Paperback
Although on my guard, I did find the assertions and digressions of Edmund White frank and refreshing. He begins the enchantment by describing a prodigious genius who was reading and writing Latin poetry as a school-boy. He found the influence of his strict,religious and ambitious mother, who never completely abandoned him, suffocating. He had a demonic urge to break all constraints. He used his precocious sexuality as a weapon on Verlaine and others to destructive effect. He developed a boorish grossness in defiance of bourgeois gentility and convention. He deconstructed his individual and social self with alcohol,absinthe and hashish. On the other hand he was a passionate supporter of material progress, science,and the pseudo-sciences.He was a voracious consumer of scientific,religious,classical,popular and exotic sources. His experiments with different metres,rhythyms and schools of poetry contributed to the genesis of modern poetry.However, by the age of nineteen, he felt that his search for the utopia of the new man with a new voice had failed and he turned his back on literature forever, abhorred even by his own literary coterie. His life from 19 - 37yrs. is covered concisely and adequately in a last section, the years of compromise and grubbing. For anyone interested in the enigma of Rimbaud, this little volume is still necessary reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Eleanor TOP 500 REVIEWER on 29 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
I haven't read much Rimbaud, but hearing fascinating snippets of his life and reading about Patti Smith's enthusiastic discovery of him in Just Kids made me want to find out more. White's short biography covers Rimbaud's life from childhood to death, focusing mainly on the short four-year period in which he was writing. Biographical details are interspersed with literary analysis and a few pages are devoted to his posthumous reputation.

I loved Edmund White's biography of Proust, but for some reason this work didn't grip me as much. White quotes extensively from Rimbaud's poems, giving his own English translations, but I would have preferred the French as well to get some idea of what made made his language so electrifying. As it was, the main impression I was left with on finishing the book was of an unpleasant man who led an unhappy life. This book would also have been improved by some photographs as several interesting ones are described.
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Format: Paperback
Strictly speaking this is not a biography of Rimbaud nor does White claim it to be. In fact he recommends the best biographies in English and French in his bibliography. He also states clearly that he is indebted for his research to Graham Robb's biography. He makes no claim to original research or insights but he does put a few of Enid Starkie's wilder claims to bed as being nothing but wild speculation or a fruit of whatever psychological theory happened to be in vogue at the time.

It is a simple introduction to the poet's life and his relationship with Verlaine drawn with broad brushstrokes. What White does however is give lots of examples of Rimbaud's poetry in context and explores some of the meanings behind the words. It is basically an art critics appraisal of Rimbaud's work without going into too much detail. So if you want a broad introduction to Rimbaud and Verlaine's troubled relationship, his poetry, and why he is held in such high regard for such a small output over four years then this is the book for you.
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