Arthur Rimbaud's A Season In Hell + The Drunken Boat Book Review

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Title: A Season in Hell/The Drunken Boat
Author: A Season In Hell
Release Date: June 28, 1961
Publisher: New Directions
Source: Bought

Although he stopped writing at the age of 19, Arthur Rimbaud (1854-91) possessed the most revolutionary talent of the century. His poetry & prose have increasingly influenced major writers. To his masterpiece A Season in Hell is here added Rimbaud's longest & possibly greatest single poem The Drunken Boat, with the original French en face Illuminations, Rimbaud's major works are available as bilingual New Directions Paperbooks. The reputation of A Season in Hell, which is a poetic record of a man's examination of his own depths, has steadily increased over the years. Upon the 1st publication of Varese's translation by New Directions, the Saturday Review wrote: "One may at last suggest that the translation of A Season in Hell has reached a conclusive point..." Concerning the 25-stanza The Drunken Boat, Dr Enid Starkie of Oxford University has written: "(It's) an anthology of separate lines of astonishing evocative magic which linger in the mind like isolated jewels." Rimbaud's life was so extraordinary that it has taken on the quality of a myth. A biographical chronology is included.

My Review:

Arthur Rimbaud was a legendary poet of French Symbolism who started writing as a teenager and stopped his career at 19 and in his wake, left a work that would later inspire artists such as Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Jack Kerouac and Jim Morrison. 

His poems sort of have this dreamy, whimsical aspect to them, full of heart and imagery as if he's traveled great planes across the world, even though he would do that later, when he stopped writing for good.

He wrote A Season In Hell at a time of dissatisfaction for his personal relationships, especially with his affair with Paul Verlaine, a married man. Rimbaud experimented heavily with drugs in this period , transitioning from the popular absinthe to opium and hash. This is obvious with some of his poems, especially Bad Blood that consist of rambles that barely keeps itself on subject.

Despite that, his writing is clearly genius for someone of his age. Even when it's obvious of the drug influence, the writing is sharp and full of personal emotion that translates beautifully onto the written page.

Case in point, In Delirium I: The Foolish Virgin, Rimbaud talks about his relationship with Paul Verlaine. At the time, it was falling apart and there was a lot of animosity between the two and Rimbaud even compares Verlaine to the foolish virgin and him as the infernal bridegroom. It's enlightening to read, considering what's been written about their relationship and hilarious as hell since there's a lot of shade being thrown around Verlaine's direction.

The drunken boat seemed to me a of an analogy of poet writing a poem. My interpretation anyways. I liked it a lot better than A Season in Hell and it seemed much more fleshed out.

I'm giving this book three stars. Even though Rimbaud was talented, he still had a lot of work left to do, including editing his volume of content and fine tuning a poem to perfection. 

However, I could see how the Surrealists found his work inspiring. It's very Lon-linear and dreamy, full of ambiguous meaning that is right up that alley. I just don't think it was right for me.

If you like reading poems and literature full of metaphors and ambiguous meaning, then I think you will greatly enjoy Arthur Rimbaud. I prefer my symbolism to be on the lighter side ^_^

X Amanda Leon

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