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9780312114763: Baudelaire

This is a biography of the French poet Charles Baudelaire. When Charles Baudelaire was six, his father died. His mother's remarriage to an army officer, Jacques Aupick, had a disastrous effect on his life, and his intense, equivocal devotion to her largely explains his failure to form a stable relationship with any other woman. He suffered not only from profound emotional problems, but often from poverty. For most of his adult life he had no settled home. He contracted syphilis in his youth and died at 46. He moved, however, among the distinguished Frenchmen of his age. He was a friend of Nerval, Gautier, Flaubert and Leconte de Lisle; he knew but he disliked Victor Hugo. His relations with contemporaries were fruitful and illuminating, if sometimes bitter; his influence on the next generation - Mallarme, Rimbaud, Verlaine - was profound. A lifelong admirer of Delacroix and Manet, both misunderstood in their time, he was also among the earliest, most passionate supporters of Wagner. Baudelaire is a figure in the history of French culture.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Another of Richardson's massively thorough, massively documented, but only minimally engaging biographies of French literary lights (Zola, 1978, etc.). Richardson sorts through conflicting testimonies about the notorious poet of Les Fleurs du mal: He was a voluptuary, he was a virgin; he indulged in drink, he drank moderately. In fact, according to the author, he was a man divided against himself, unable to resist carnal desires yet feeling degraded by them--a true Catholic at heart, despite his conviction in 1857 for offending public morality with his poems. But Richardson primarily hangs her view of Baudelaire on one thread: the unhealthy symbiosis between the poet and his mother, and the poet's conflicting needs, first, to avenge himself on her for remarrying and abandoning him emotionally when he was a boy; and, second, to recover the earlier, idyllic period of her widowhood, when he was the focus of her love. Quoting liberally from the poet's letters to his mother, Richardson limns a life as wearying to the reader as it must have been to the poet: the endless cajoling and castigating requests for money (youthful extravagance by the poet-dandy had led to the appointment of a trustee to dole out his inheritance), efforts to flee creditors, writings conceived but never executed. His devotion to the prostitute Jeanne Duval was thus a revenge against his conventional mother; his chaste love for the courtesan Apollonie Sabatier was an attempt to recover the lost maternal love. This is all credible but not very satisfying, for as Richardson herself shows, this man was highly complex: rebellious, sensitive, egotistical, self-doubting, cynical, naive. Yet while highlighting Baudelaire's misery, she fails to illuminate the means by which he, as he once put it, turned the mud of life into poetic gold. Fortunately she does rely heavily on quoting letters from the time, and thus presents a heartrending picture of Baudelaire's last year, before his death at the age of 46 in 1867: Struck by hemiplegia and aphasia, the poet who had made such exquisite use of language was virtually unable to utter a word. Strictly for students and devotees of this great poŠte maudit. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Booklist:

Baudelaire's discarding of the conventional distinctions between good and evil and his assertion of the beauty and truth found in the perverse and grotesque would pit him against the censors of his day. Upon the publication of Les Fleurs du Mal (Flowers of Evil) in 1857, he was prosecuted on morals and obscenity charges and narrowly escaped imprisonment. In this extraordinary biography, Richardson (the author of highly regarded lives of Stendhal, Verlaine, and Hugo) finds that the leading French "decadent," initially at least, invented himself, that his early use of hashish, his talk and writing of sexual perversity and depravity, his morbidity and dissolution, were part of "his attempt to create his legend." While "the satanism of Baudelaire was only a pose," she writes, "the anguish . . . was real and absolute." And much of that anguish grew out of his tormented, inordinate love for his mother, a woman who practically abandoned her sensitive son, packing him off to boarding schools so that he would not irritate his new stepfather. Baudelaire did become addicted to drugs and alcohol later in life, though probably for medicinal reasons, as he struggled to quell the agonies of several ailments, including syphilis. Baudelaire had "a taste for squalid sexual encounters," but Richardson agrees with most biographers that his only "passionate love" was for Jeanne Duval, a drunken, addicted, black lesbian with no qualms about exploiting the writer's weaknesses. This is a massive, remarkable work, revelatory about all the stages of Baudelaire's fascinating life: in every way, a literary biography. Ron Antonucci

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Joanna Richardson
Editore: St Martins Pr (1994)
ISBN 10: 0312114761 ISBN 13: 9780312114763
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Descrizione libro St Martins Pr, 1994. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. 1st US Edition. Codice libro della libreria DADAX0312114761

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