Reviews - What do customers think about Les Fleurs Du Mal (Pocket Classics)?
This is the Best Translation Jan 9, 2003
I am not a writer, nor a critic. I am a mere reader who appreciates good works. This is one of my staple books, which I often reread and recommend to people who I feel might have the mind to appreciate genius. This is the best translation I know of and as a necessary feature of translated poetry, it includes the original French text, as well. Baudelaire reveals the beauty within darkness and exposes the darkness within light. Brilliance has always been rare, but I would say now it is more rare than ever within the literary field. This may very well be due to books like this going unread by the majority of the population. This is a wonderful book to enhance a person's writing depth, and their understanding of the world. Other great author's and books are: Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud, Mallarme, Antonin Artaud's Anthology and The Death of Satan, Lautremont and Maldoror by Issidore Ducasse, All of the Marquis de Sade's works, Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust, Finnegan's Wake by James Joyce, Anne Sexton's Complete Works, La Batarde by Violette Leduc, the diaries of Anais Nin, and Sylvia Plath's poetry.
This book is in French! Aug 13, 2002
Don't be fooled by Steven McLeod's review. This book is not an English translation of the French poet's work. It is printed entirely in French with no side-by-side translation. Just don't make the same mistake I did and send it as a gift to a non-French speaking friend!
(By the way, my three stars mean nothing as I couldn't read the book either, but was required to fill-in the field to submit this "review.")
The Evocative Magic of Images and Sounds Oct 3, 2000
As both poet and critic, Baudelaire stands in relation to French and European poetry as Gustave Flaubert and Edouard Manet do to fiction and painting; as a crucial link between Romanticism and modernism and as a supreme example, in both his life and work, of what it means to be a modern artist. His catalytic influence was recognized in the nineteenth century by Rimbaud, Verlaine, Mallarmé and Swinburne and, in the twentieth century by Valèry, Rilke and T.S. Eliot.
Baudelaire's poetic masterpiece, the 1861 edition of Les Fleurs du mal (Flowers of Evil) consists of 126 poems arranged in six sections of varying length. Baudelaire always insisted that the collection was not a "simple album" but had "a beginning and an end," each poem revealing its full meaning only when read in relation to the others within the "singular framework" in which it is placed. A prefatory poem makes it clear that Baudelaire's concern is with the general human predicament of which his own is representative. The collection may best be read in the light of the concluding poem, Le Voyage, as a journey through self and society in search of some impossible satisfaction that forever eludes the traveler.
The first section, entitled Spleen et idéal, opens with a series of poems that dramatize contrasting views of art, beauty and the artist, who is depicted alternately as martyr, visionary, performer, pariah and fool.
The focus then shifts to sexual and romantic love, with the first-person narrator of the poems oscillating between extremes of ecstasy (idèal) and anguish (spleen) as he attempts to find fulfillment through a succession of women whom it is possible, if simplistic, to identify with Jeanne Duval, Apollonie Sabatier and Marie Daubrun.
Each set of love poems describes an erotic cycle that leads from intoxication through conflict and revulsion to an eventual ambivalent tranquility born of memory and the transmutation of suffering into art. Yet the attempt to find plentitude through love comes in the end to nothing, and Spleen et idèal ends with a sequence of anguished poems, several of them entitled Spleen, in which the self is shown imprisoned within itself with only the certainty of suffering and death before it.
The second section, Tableaux parisiens, was added to the 1861 edition and describes a 24-hour cycle in the life of the city of Paris through which the Baudelairean traveler, now metamorphosed into a flaneru, moves in quest of deliverance from the miseries of self, only to find, at every twist and turn, images of suffering and isolation that remind him all too pertinently of his own. This section includes some of Baudelaire's greatest poems, most notably Le Cygne, where the memory of a swan stranded in total dereliction near the Louvre becomes a symbol of an existential condition of loss and exile transcending time and space.
Having gone through the city forever meeting himself, the traveler turns, in the much shorter sections that follow, successively to drink (Le Vin), sexual depravity (Fleurs du mal), and satanism (Rèvoltè) in quest of the elusive ideal. His quest is predictably to no avail for, as the final section, entitled La Mort, reveals, his journey is an everlasting, open-ended odyssey that, continuing beyond death, will take him into the depths of the unknown, always in pursuit of the new, which, by definition, must forever elude him.
In pursuit of an "evocative magic" of images and sounds, his blending of intellect and feeling, irony and lyricism, and his deliberate eschewal of rhetoric utterance, Baudelaire moved decisively away from the Romantic poetry of statement and emotion to the modern poetry of symbol and suggestion. He was, said his disciple Jules Laforgue, the first poet to write of Paris as one condemned to live day to day in the city, his greatest originality being, as Verlaine wrote as early as 1865, to "represent powerfully and essentially modern man" in all his physical, psychological and moral complexity. Baudelaire is a pivotal figure in European literature and thought, and his influence on modern poetry has been immense.