BAUDELAIRE by Pichois Claude
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A remarkably detailed, eminently readable biography of the 19th-century poet/ debauchee/rebel/addict/dandy, by the head of Vanderbilt University's Baudelaire Center. Drawing on the extensive research and scholarship conducted during the past century, Pichois offers one of the most rounded portraits of the enigmatic author ever attempted. He is admirably served by Graham Robb, whose translation reads with unusual clarity, smoothness, and vitality. Charles Baudelaire was the son of painter Francois Baudelaire and his second wife, Caroline Dufays. When his father died and Caroline married Jacques Aupick, a military officer and relentless conformist, the stage was set for young Baudelaire's lifelong commitment to rebellion. Attacking both Romantic extravagance and bourgeois timidity, Baudelaire led a life marked by disease, drugs, and depravity. His Les Fleurs du Mal was censored in 1857 and was not allowed to be published in its entirety in France until after WW II. Syphilis, contracted as a young man, finally resulted in his death at age 46. Meanwhile, his relationships with women had been fleeting at best and are shrouded in mystery to this day. Questions still abound concerning Baudelaire's mulatto mistress, Jeanne Duval, as well as the mysterious ""Berthe"" and ""J.G.F."". He associated with many of the leading literary figures of the day-Hugo, M‚rim‚e, Sainte-Beuve--enchanting some with his talent, infuriating others with his outrageousness. All of this material Pichois presents with a fine eye for the significant detail, leavening his narrative with colorful anecdotes. He analyzes Baudelaire's oeuvre with equal care and insight. Likely to be the definitive study for years to come.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton/ Viking