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Paris Spleen (New Directions Paperbook) Paperback – 1 Feb 1970
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The cadenced prose beats in perfect time with the pulse of the slumbering city, where only the strange is awake. The atmosphere is old, dirty, often sordid, and yet, somehow, glorious.... The translation is almost perfect.--John Randolph
He possessed, as it were, a profound intuition of the obstinate, amorphous contingency which is life...--Jean-Paul Sartre
About the Author
Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) is most famous for his groundbreaking collection of verse The Flowers of Evil, but his essays, translations, and prose poems have been equally influential.
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Dear Baudelaire approaches this work coming off a work as definitive of the poet finding his stride and adept command he realized amidst the blooms that signify his FLOWERS OF EVIL. He can command with searing expressive power only because he is working amidst his own racing stride -- poetry that catches poignant poetics with the work almost being but bate for the catch of striking depth he could only here have hooked and told us the story thus of his catch. This is perhaps why people may speak of dear Baudelaire with a special intimacy of the man because he caught his voice and lived to also tell us with vital clarity of our thus shared approach to creative expression. With no romance and no misleading sentimentality are but just small aspects of how he can yield such definitive strength of stature that holds steadfast to an accurately beautiful poetics we may experience because in PARIS S his poetic expression that yields a significant creative force that he wills himself with adept ease and immediacy here into the firm footing of a European canon of poetic work making Charles Baudelaire both widely celebrated and intimately read as any pen to paper expression spanning the poetic landscape and finding itself attaining critical relevance of a psyche evolving amidst a poignant searing of modernists expression that demands of us to meet the poet with so much as we can meet the poet with a matched, respectively appropriate seriousness that Baudelaire even after a thorough familiarity of PARIS SPLEEN reaches to attain a work we can endevour to approach that I can with confidence convey a expressive poetics here that bares new discovery and adept layering that with each read and each time we revisit PARIS SPLEEN yields an illicit potential for discovery that we continue to find new elements of this piece as any seriously considered piece of visual art provides for the viewer. Baudelaire maneuvers a language and breathless power that provides both the contemplative and the most immediacy we may dare to reach for in PARIS SPLEEN. How Baudelaire approaches such a work of explorative refinement is most complex in he catches searing modernism as relevant as the day it broke its binding over a hundred years ago -- a modernism with illicit brilliance that even experienced in a now contemporary placement amidst a history unfolding with time itself opening up here a modernistic relevance that in a contemporary landscape of art experience we do well to remember such striking, daring and searing beauty that excites in us a compelling relationship with that with Baudelaire's poetic responsibility to spin an interplay of poetics that is simply and qualitatively exciting. We meet a genius poet at a time amidst him catching a powerful stride and with a seasoned command of his life's searching and committed expression he embarked upon years before he found himself attaining a state of BEING when making precursors to this mighty and little book Baudelaire explored to realize when he unveiled his pen and poetic gestures that make FLOWERS OF EVIL a necessary expression that was necessary for Baudelaire to even approach these prose with an inertia which he with the succession of FLOWERS, his sense of searing command and ferocity of personal pivoting, of a footing so solid amidst his own spinning command of language that he dares to realize his creative individualism that with each complex approach to new explorative prose work he pens an individuate on rarely communicated with such vivid intamacy of personal expression that we hear the very things he has wished to tell us all in a tone made so clear and of unyielding strength of character that we rarely meet as a reader of quality poetic musings. He impresses upon each of us a signiture and clarity of commanding vocal prowess that stays with us reminding us ever so after of the time we met the genius a dear poet we candidly can remember as dear Charles Baudelaire a poignant artist of such a quality we may dare thereafter to ask for in any poet we meet after dear Baudelaire. His scope and contribution is wide and true -- and he continuous to illicit devoted readers all the time that we can somehow identify as a knowing of a most special man met in true form via his striking genius that he dares to attain a personality so daring he can sim produces that at its core has that signature Baudelaire air of cunning such quality and of significant creative expression a poet he is and just what a poignant stature he approaches the explorative prose found here. PARIS SPLEEN comes at a pivotal moment in Baudelaire's creative fruition approaching this work after recently coming off his historically signature work FLOWERS OF EVIL. Approaching a relatively new form of poetics after attaining such momentous stride found thereafter FLOWERS, how he arrives at a given piece of prose here marks an occasion where the man attained a mastery of language and expression so to reach further here in this small piece when compared to the signature grandeur that is a FLOWERS OF EVIL. We see seasoned genius mid-stride here pivoting and maneuvering his poetics in ways that further speak to us of the quality of the man here. A small piece in page count and in form serves to bare a succession of poignant creative expression that elevates this gem of a piece so that it may age as striking poetry as a piece into itself -- while attaining a signature expression immediately made ceitical in being a vital aspect of his works that without PARIS SPLEEN would miss a special aspect of what has come to know as an aspect of Charles Baudelaire's total image. How he arrives at the poetic movements and adept command here in this little book bares a ferocious stride and searing poetic maneuvering that signifies a point in his creative expression where he has dared to reach a place of masterful being and transcending a seemingly simple, short piece of poetry upon a level of grandeur that elevates the prose here onto a level of striking command and write seemingly with a new found ease of immediacy that dares itself to new heights of transformative expression that is important work in itself -- as well as going down as a vital aspect of what historically makes up Baudelaire's totality of creative expression that with searing expression he wills himself into the canon of European poetics with an ease of stride while keeping the work up so far as never letting the dynamic power get away from him throughout his work here. He thus deems PARIS SPLEEN as a remarkably special book of historic relevance onto itself as a critical work of poetic quality that sustains itself so to age with its original relevance that it unveiled upon the works release. A work here that attains itself as a critical aspect of what collectively comprises Baudelaire's total image. A collection of Baudelaire without PARIS SPLEEN is apparently incomplete in his individual reach serving as these prose being elemental in significance alongside his other works that all together comprise the total and striking individual totality that portraits for us a historically complete rendering of complete and characteristic totality that a collection yielding a total image of Baudelaire that a collection without PARIS SPLEEN is apparent in its incomplete portraiture of a genius in his own right with a ferocity and adeptness that all together bare with picturesque portraiture that PARIS SPLEEN demands itself to serve as a critical aspect of Baudelaire's total image -- of his total expression. Any collection of Baudelaire's work that finds PARIS SPLEEN missing would ultimately be a missed opportunity of baring all his critical aspects so collectively can age thus hereafter as being of accurate expression of characteristic quality so all together may enter the canon of Europe's poetic landscape that dear Baudelaire is a daring and afe would thus be incomplete. The quality of poetics thus stands up to seemingly larger bodies of work that are widely popular signature work -- lending a versed and depth of understanding his work giving us an intimate knowledge of his total image.
So here we find such poignant gestures that reach a heightened place of expression that dare to attain a searing realization of each and every moment's given potential for a remarkably individualistic complete creative expression uniquely Baudelaire in nature. This little book thus provides a special arena for Baudelaire to pivot his poetics into new and vital places having just coming off the more characteristic pieces of his. His stride is sustained yielding this explorative and refined prose book. And by doing so we see a seasoned mastery over form that is powerful in itself -- while establishing an aspect of Baudelaire that any collection of his writing would be missing without the presence of PARIS SPLEEN. This small book achieves a necessary aspect in what Baudelaire's total image consists of -- even with FLOWERS OF EVIL the small space he works within here provided readers something new. Working in seemingly small gestures we come to know Baudelaire in a more succinct and complete way that even his more grandiose work couldn't reach. With a new seasoned stride we get the sense of his BEING and command over his work here as he approaches new forms and approaches to creative expression. PARIS SPLEEN marks a work here that he was able to catch a new language and say something new to us. Now having good hundred years pass PARIS SPLEEN allows us an opportunity to catch a glimpse that must have been strikingly beautiful at the time. We see a creative work having aged very well while retaining a relevance and vitality.
Before we open this small book of prose poetry, and even still, before we begin reading PARIS SPLEEN's first section -- Baudelaire is already working to engage the reader and here impresses upon us one of the pieces first ideas presented to us: that which PARIS SPLEEN seemingly may be about. That the title PARIS SPLEEN communicates to us a unique combination of ideas along with the cover art -- that together produce the possibility for the reader to arrive at the idea of the book's title suggesting that PARIS SPLEEN is a documentary work. An idea we seemingly discover on our own YET without question is directly from the place of Baudelaire's originally adept craft and understanding of the reader's experience. With a Socratic touch only made detectable in hindsight, we discover this poignantly raw Baudelaire curiosity -- the idea bubbles up that PARIS SPLEEN could very well be a diary of a man living in the city he calls home, Paris. This intimacy somehow stays with us throughout the read. Even if this first idea falls flat in passing -- the subtle maneuvering of the poet at work here is seen activating the reader while never dropping the poetics dynamic swells of inertia and visceral body of a tactile material. Baudelaire coming off more sin a way unique to the stuff of really fine poetry.
And more importantly, he attains a command of that which any artist is ultimately responsible for -- the passing of time. So as we then seem to push alongside with the artist an element of the book is established: an active questioning becomes part of how we read PARIS SPLEEN and how it reads us. Now we are responsible for an inquisitive and active role in reading. Prose of contemplative quality is now afoot once activate by a now seemingly irrelevant question of the works nature. He asked us just so far as to bring us into a more active relationship to the material. Now we have simplicity with parable like perspective. It won't work as a passive read after a couple prose in here with Baudelaire. He dares us to ask more. And in hindsight he makes good on providing more.
Here one may find themselves in a unique place where the artist subtlety may illicit our trust in a natural way that feels like we are being compelled forward. Here we find those engrossing memories of time escaping us with a speed matching that of fine music. Baudelaire winks at us with a gleam in the eye of such a thoughtful poetics.
As we get into the book, such a thought seems to be irrelevant in itself, but herein lies the work of adept excellence that presents a level of expression by an individual that one attains mastery over form. Charles Baudelaire following the FLOWERS OF EVIL pens in a searing state of BEING a work as simply pure as PARIS SPLEEN can be. That can at the same time bare such depth and complexity that the two when coexisting in form yield transcendence. A piece that whenever we return to it -- yields new insight and discovery. A definitive quality of any exceptional piece of art.
"One should always be drunk. That's the great thing; the only question. Not to feel the horrible burden of Time weighing on your shoulders and bowing you to the earth, you should be drunk without respite. Drunk with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you you please. But get drunk."
This small book is one to cherish and pick up periodically from time to time and slap yourself in the face with it, like dumping a bucket of cold water over your head periodically to wake you up and shake you to look at life.
Most notably, these 51 short prose poems illustrate how truth, and the most accurate perceptions of life possible, can be reached by honing the senses and then melding them with the more passive facilities of the mind; logic and rational thinking, as demonstrated here, are for the vulgar, those in denial, those simply unable to accept the very rich, self-evident smorgasbord of life.
Baudelaire, both a tragic and a comedic clown, also effortlessly illustrates how melancholy and joy are by no means mutually exclusive categories of human experience.
Set largely against autumnal landscapes, the wandering poet indulges in "the mysterious and aristocratic pleasure of watching" whenever he is not a direct participant in the events these visionary pieces describe. Solitary, "fluent in outrage," cranky, lovelorn, misanthropic, and pedagogical by turns, these pieces find the poet stalking bereaved widows, peering unseen through the candle-lit windows of neighbor's homes, asking philosophical questions of "enigmatical" strangers, shunning crowds, greeting the twilight with a bow, reading the time of day in a cat's eyes, "beating the poor," and listening, eavesdropping, and relentlessly observing wherever he goes.
Not surprisingly, the poet's vision of urban Paris lies somewhere between the canvases of Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec: garishly colored, grotesque, heavily populated with heaving women and friable grande dames, Baudelaire's city is a stage for life's pantomime, open to and allowing for all combinations and possibilities. By contrast, his autumnal countryside is a place of relative purity, where the poet wanders alone under stark blue skies and roaming, shadow-casting clouds.
In one of the more hallucinatory episodes, the poet, "under a vast gray sky, on a vast and dusty plain" comes upon a procession of men with "worn and serious faces," each of whom carries a very large, monstrous "chimera" on his back, the muscles, tendons and limbs of the beasts wrapped tightly around them. None the wiser after asking these men his litany of inevitable questions, the poet observes that "under the depressing dome of the sky" the men moved past and beyond him, each "with the resigned look of men who are condemned to hope forever."
'Paris Spleen' is a wise, serious and dour work. But if its only occasionally tragic underpinnings and conclusions can be embraced by its audience, then its vibrant, bawdy and transcendent aspect reveals itself shamelessly in turn. Baudelaire is so confident, unselfconscious, and plain-spoken that his perceptions are remarkably easy to visualize, his emotions as expressed surprisingly easy to relate to. Few books are as multi-prismed as this.
The poet implies that if man could accept mortality, reasonably subdue his ego, and curb his more flagrant dreams, life would begin to resemble the far from perfect, but certainly tolerable and potentially enjoyable, miracle that it actually is.
Baudelaire seems to have reached the same conclusion that Isak Dinsen did at the end of her memoir, 'Out Of Africa' (1937): man must accept, without exclusion, every facet, aspect, element, and component of existence before existence--before life--will give anything back to him.
Perfectly translated by Louise Varese, this edition allows the non-poet to see, however briefly, as a poet sees.