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Rimbaud Paperback – 7 Sep 2001

4.7 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprints edition (7 Sept. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330488031
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330488037
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 175,931 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Amazon Review

Arthur Rimbaud was a extraordinary figure, a man who in his teenage year s wrote poetry that is arguably amongst the greatest in French Literature, but who gave it all up by his early 20s and went to Africa to run guns. It's hard to think of a more fascinating figure from the 19th century, or one more relevant to the youth-icon-fixated present. Robb's biography inhabits the superlative mode: Rimbaud has been "one of the most destructive and liberating influences on twentieth-century literature", a spiritual soulmate to Patti Smith and Kurt Cobain. "For many readers (including this one)", he confesses, "the revelation of Rimbaud's poetry is one of the decisive events of adolescence". The poet's letter to his old teacher in 1871 (in which he famously asserted that "je est une autre"--"I is somebody else") is "one of the most important aesthetic texts" of the age. In 1873 Rimbaud was shot in the arm by his lover Verlaine; the bullet was extracted by the police surgeon. "If it ever emerges from a police archive", Robb asserts, "it will probably become one of the holiest relics in modern literature". It's possible to imagine that some readers may find this energetic a little outré, but at the least all this authorial excitement has the zing of authenticity; Robb convinces you that Rimbaud's work does really matter. If you don't already possess a copy of his poetry, reading this fizzingly brilliant biography will compel you to go out and purchase one at once. And Robb's work has all the scholarly virtues of solid research and a detailed sense of time and place. But the real genius of this book is that it encourages the reader to enter imaginatively into the hectic intensity of Rimbaud's short life so completely that even the subject's out-and-out obnoxiousness--stabbing his friends with knives, breaking marriages, sponging off all and sundry, being utterly unreliable and drinking himself into the grave--seem like radical acts of anti-bourgeois revolution. Rimbaud's philosophy of "scummification" ("je m'encrapule!" he declared), which meant that he washed neither himself nor his clothes, and deliberately sought out a life at the very bottom of society, was more than an adolescent cussedness. This book is a triumph. --Adam Roberts --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

'Robb has written a great biography - scholarly, humane and above all marvelously entertaining' Guardian

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By A Customer on 15 Aug. 2001
Format: Hardcover
It is difficult to imagine a better biography: informed, objective and superbly written. Rimbaud - in all his incarnations, from the rebellious student 'loping' accross to the library in Charleroi leaving clouds of pipe smoke in his wake to the deliriously skeletal figure on his deathbed in Marseilles - comes off the pages as an outlandishly entrancing figure. Even if the poetry isn't to everyone's taste, the man himself is compelling.
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By Nicholas Casley TOP 500 REVIEWER on 7 Jan. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The title of this review was Verlaine's description of Rimbaud.

I came to this book not by way of Arthur Rimbaud but by way of Graham Robb. Having read his biographies of Balzac and Hugo, and his recent `Discovery of France', I was so impressed by his distinctively humorous and no-nonsense style and by his clear and fresh approach to his subjects that I thought it worthwhile to read his biography of Rimbaud too. I came to this book with very little knowledge of its subject beyond the supposed scandal of his affair with Paul Verlaine; I had not consciously read Rimbaud's poetry before, save for the selection of `Illuminations' that Benjamin Britten had transformed into a marvellously evocative song-cycle for his lover Peter Pears to sing. By referring to Rimbaud in the first sentence of his introduction as "one of the most destructive and liberating influences on twentieth-century culture", Robb immediately aroused my curiosity.

Robb has always been a fan of Rimbaud: "for many readers (including this one), the revelation of Rimbaud's poetry is one of the decisive events of adolescence." Robb's biography is, then, clearly a labour of love: "My only regret is that it did not take twice as long." Robb seeks to get to the heart of his subject by pulling away the web of myth in which his subject's life has been shrouded: "One of the starting-points of this biography was the discovery that Rimbaud's image is still a faint reflection of the evidence"; and by following Rimbaud's detailed European travels with an equally detailed description of those in the Horn of Africa, Robb has "tried at least to allow Rimbaud to grow up".
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By A Customer on 10 Oct. 2000
Format: Hardcover
The legend of Rimbaud is simple and compelling. Brilliant young scholar and poet escapes provincial background and goes to Paris. Meets up with Verlaine. They have anumber of years of tempestuous life, during which Rimbaud writes all of the poetry which survives and makes his name decades later. After a tragic final violent episode where Verlaine shoots him, they part and, soon after Rimbaud gives up poetry forever. The rest of his life is naturally a failure, if colourful, and he returns to France to die; indifferent to his growing fame.
Very many tedious biographies have told this story. After two or three retellings Rimbaud the man becomes so unpleasant and insubstantial that we are left only with the poetry which seems inexplicable in such a context.
Graham Robb has decided to do more than just "print the legend", he has done a great deal of research and, even more important, he has thought himself through to a more rational view of the man. The poetic episode becomes an interlude in a life, not the justification of the life. Once we see his life whole and realise that he was a successful trader with a growing reputation; And that his life was cut short not because of his denial of his gifts, but because of bad luck with bone cancer, it becomes easier to accept that he might have been right to give up literature for the active life. His life was certainly more fulfilling than that of Verlaine. I highly recommend this book for its methodical reseearch, its insights and the wit of its writing. The only reason I do not give it five stars is that it is extremely light on interpreting the poetry and does not really enter into teh peotic part of the relationship between the two poets. Highly recommended as a good read and one which might make you look again at some of your prejudices
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Format: Hardcover
A fascinating insight into the life of possibly the world's first adolescent, and a stark reminder of the short period in which the poems were written. Where Robb succeeds, is in placing the idea of Rimbaud as poet, in the context of Rimbaud as the man, explorer, trader and polymath. However, the use of short quotes form the poems is a little irritating at times, particularly when they are used to reflect parts of Rimbaud's life but are not contemporary. The author seems to have made a conscious decision not to quote poems at length or to analyse poems at any great depth, but this was a weakness of the book for me
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Format: Paperback
I love reading about people. However I often find reading about their childhood and their parents, and their parents parents tiresome.

BUT!

Skip to Part Two and beyond and you will find the most hilarious description of antics of expedition, confidence, pranks and genius I have ever read. Robb trains a wry self-knowing eye on Arthur's life and times [see? Robb is that good, I feel I know Rimbaud already] and once the story expands to Africa tha pace increases tenfold.

Cracking Stuff!

BUY IT!
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