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Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud Review

Title: Illuminations

Author: Arthur Rimbaud

First published January 1, 1875

182 pages, Paperback

ISBN: 9780811201841 (ISBN10: 0811201848)

Rating: 4.34


Arthur Rimbaud’s Illuminations is a collection of prose poems that have inspired and influenced poetry for over a century. Translated into superb English by Louise Varèse, this edition includes the original texts and two newly discovered poems from France.

Rimbaud, a French genius, produced some of the finest examples of French verse before giving up poetry at the age of twenty-one. His interest in hallucinations, vertigo, and silence is reflected in his writing, which captures unexplored aspects of experience and thought in a beam of pellucid, and strangely active language.

With an introduction by Varèse, who discusses the complicated ins and outs of Rimbaldien scholarship and the special qualities of Rimbaud’s writing, Illuminations is a must-read for lovers of poetry and literature.

About the Author

Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud, a French poet, was renowned for his surreal and transgressive themes, which influenced modern literature and arts, prefiguring surrealism. He was born in Charleville and started writing at a young age, excelling as a student.

However, amidst the Franco-Prussian War, he abandoned his formal education in his teenage years and ran away to Paris. During his late adolescence and early adulthood, he created most of his literary works.

Rimbaud stopped writing literature entirely at age 20 after completing his last major work.

Rimbaud was a libertine and a restless soul, engaging in a tumultuous, occasionally violent romantic relationship with fellow poet, which lasted for nearly two years. After retiring as a writer, he traveled extensively on three continents as a merchant and explorer until his death from cancer, just after his thirty-seventh birthday.

As a poet, Rimbaud’s contributions to symbolism are well-known, including his work, which served as a precursor to modernist literature.

Editoral Review

Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud is a collection of poems that was first published on January 1, 1875. Rimbaud was a French poet who is known for his innovative style and unconventional approach to poetry, which had a profound influence on modern literature.

Illuminations is considered to be one of his most significant works, showcasing his unique vision and lyrical mastery. The collection consists of 42 prose poems that blur the line between poetry and narrative.

The poems capture vivid sensations and images that evoke a surreal, dreamlike world. Rimbaud uses language in unexpected ways, creating a sense of disorientation that reflects the themes of alienation and transgression.

The book’s title is derived from the concept of illuminations, which suggests the idea of enlightenment or revelation. The poems in Illuminations are not organized chronologically or thematically, but are grouped according to their poetic structure.

However, they share common themes of love, beauty, and mysticism. The poems also explore the depths of the human psyche, revealing the dark and violent impulses that lie beneath the surface of everyday life.

One of the most striking aspects of Illuminations is Rimbaud’s use of imagery. His descriptions are both evocative and startling, infused with a sense of wonder and horror.

The imagery is often drawn from the natural world, but presented in a distorted or fantastical form. For example, in the poem “The Drunken Boat,” Rimbaud describes a boat adrift in a storm-tossed sea, its mast broken and sails torn.

The image is both brutal and haunting, representing the struggle for survival in the face of overwhelming forces. Another key element of the book is Rimbaud’s focus on the individual experience.

The poems are intensely personal, reflecting Rimbaud’s own struggles with identity and artistic expression. He challenges traditional forms of poetry and resists categorization, embodying the rebellious spirit of his era.

Rimbaud’s vision is uncompromising and revolutionary, setting the stage for the Symbolist and Surrealist movements that followed. Despite its complexity and challenging style, Illuminations remains a landmark of modern literature.

It continues to inspire and influence poets and writers today, as well as artists and musicians. Its themes of beauty, love, and transgression speak to universal human experiences that are still relevant today.

Overall, Illuminations is a profound and captivating work that demands multiple readings and careful consideration. Rimbaud’s mastery of language and imagery is on full display, creating a world that is at once beautiful and frightening.

While it may not be for everyone, for those willing to explore its depths, the rewards are immeasurable. The book is a must-read for lovers of poetry and fans of Rimbaud’s work, and anyone interested in the history and evolution of modern literature.

The Washington Post gives it a 4.5 out of 5 stars.