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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 14 April 2000
Les Fleurs de Mal is a meditation of the problem of being moral in a new industrial society where the distinction between good and evil no longer seems to be a distinction that can be made. Some of the poems were banned when they were first composed but this collection restores them to their rightful place within the chapters. This is a pretty good translation of the poems although it does sacrifice some of the meaning of the lines in French in order to produce rhyme in English. Read this for a beautiful and striking evocation of bohemian life.
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on 5 May 2017
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on 28 February 2013
Nikos Kazantzakis characterized the voice of the instincts and subconscious as the "voice of the mud". Prior to understanding the shades of gray one must venture to the outer limits of light and darkness. Intellect and sensations. Logic and lust. Every one of us is afraid of the tremendous pressure of his feelings which seem as a forbidden zone due to their uncontrolable nature.

Baudelaire's poetry is a compass leading deep into our darkest and simultaneously most distilled part of our existence. The Fleur De Mal was seized by the police when it wast first published. Would you like to read something that caused such a great fear to society of that time? What could hide more truth than the one feared?

This classic collection of poems is not just about lust. It's about unspoken feelings of desire and freedom. Freedom from the constrains set by our own nature. See the difference between the following of his poems:

The Vampire

You, deadlier than a dagger thrust,
Who into my sick heart have come!
You, sleek and lethal in your lust,
Who like a thousand demons swarm

Into my mind, where you have found
Your bed of sin and your domain--
Bitch! vile bitch! to you I'm bound
As is the convict to his chain!

As is the gambler to his dice,
As is the drunkard to his bowl,
As is the carcase to its lice--
Incarnate bitch! bitch without soul!

I begged the knife to put an end
To all my pain...poison to pour
Its giddy death into my veins,
Yielding the peace I so longed for!

Alas! these two, they sneered at me,
Both poison and the knife so rude:
"You have no right to be set free
From your accursèd servitude!

Fool! if somehow we could contrive
To free you from your wretched pain,
Your kisses would restore to life
Your Vampire's rotting corpse again!"

And the absolute controversy:

Man And The Sea

Free man! the sea is to thee ever dear!
The sea is thy mirror, thou regardest thy soul
In its mighteous waves that unendingly roll,
And thy spirit is yet not a chasm less drear.

Thou delight'st to plunge deep in thine image down;
Thou tak'st it with eyes and with arms in embrace,
And at times thine own inward voice would'st efface
With the sound of its savage ungovernable moan.

You are both of you, sombre, secretive and deep:
Oh mortal, thy depths are foraye unexplored,
Oh sea--no one knoweth thy dazzling hoard,
You both are so jealous your secrets to keep!

And endless ages have wandered by,
Yet still without pity or mercy you fight,
So mighty in plunder and death your delight:
Oh wrestlers! so constant in enmity!

Take this journey with this book. It's going to be the furthest journey to the closest place, the dark corners of your soul.
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on 3 May 2003
I've rated this 4 stars as it's the english version and so although it may be oxford world classics and therefore excellently transalted, some of the rhythm and rhyme of the poems will be lost, which often adds to its personality. The french version gets 5 stars.
Baudelaire wrote brilliant poetry, and it wasn't the stuff a gentleman could recline into his leather chair with his pipe with to relax in the 19th C without (unless he was totally thick) realising that a lot of the poems (especially in spleen and ideal) are focused mainly on the dark and rotting side of life. 'spleen' was for baudelaire a sort of depressive feeling of ennui and dark restlessness, and ideal its opposite; an ecstatic state of spiritual well-being. the collection of poems ranges between these opposing poles (it is generally thought that b was a manic depressive) and are beautiful.
a lot of people in my french lit class really disliked B; saying he was a weirdo and really disgusting - some of the images and themes are, but i think those people just couldn't confront/think about the dark side of life, which B translates into his poetry and knew so well.
having written all about how dark B's poetry is, and how some people find it depressing, i personally find some of them quite uplifting - for example in one lengthy poem about a corspe rotting in the sunshine, the poet contemplates how one day his body and soul will be reduced to such a state. but implicit in the poem is hat fact that the flowers in the surrounding field grow out of such rotten material, that life is cyclic and that almost nothing is eternal.
even if you're not used to poetry, i would recommend this, as long as you're not squeamish!
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on 15 May 2012
This is not a comment on the poetry, but a note about the Kindle edition for anyone considering buying it.

The bilingual, facing-page translations don't work very well on the kindle. It is still readable, just about, but it splices the two together and causes the english translation of one poem to get mixed in with the original french of the next poem and is frankly annoying.

Not recommended.
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on 22 August 2003
Charles Baudelaire is one of the most technically exact and lyrical of all poets. One of the main problems with this otherwise superb book of his poems is the poor translation. James McGowan has taken Baudelaire's beautiful poetry and turned it into turgid writing. The quality of the translations is indicative of the poor scholarly standards that prevail in this era. The poems are almost perfect in the original, but so many liberties have been taken, often for the sake of finding a rhyme, that often the 'essense' as well as the meaning is lost. If James McGowan had refrained from translating Baudelaire's beautiful poetry, our world would be a better place.
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on 2 September 2013
I love Baudelaire, his writing was so unique. This is quite a good translation but I am sure there are better, however, it still reads very well. Beauty and ugliness in life is all around, and I believe this fellow captured it through a glass, darkly. One of my favourite books of all time, I do not think I will ever sell it. Recommended!
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on 2 April 2013
Great poems from the brilliant Baudelaire with great translations. Exactly what I expected and more. Great explanatory notes, indexes, introduction etc.....
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on 3 December 2011
As a newcomer to the works of Baudelaire, only having read selected poems, I would recommend The Flowers of Evil to anyone who wishes to discover the genius of this wonderfully long forgotten 19th century classic poet. The Flowers of Evil has rightly been called Baudelaire's greatest, wittiest and most surreal collection of poems for all to enjoy.
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on 18 February 2015
A fabulous edition in French and English. A true master of poetry beautifully printed. Baudelaire will help mould your views of perception. Wonderful.
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