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The biographer of Rimbaud in his later years has the problem not only that his subject was not a very likeable person but that not much happened. He endured privations in the African heat, he traded, he made some arduous journeys, then his health failed and he died in his thirties. Of course, the fact that he was a precocious poet in his teens, whose fame continued to grow long after he lost interest in poetry, gives a certain fascination to the later years. The material for those years is thin but it has been assiduously gathered by Nicholl and he presents it well. I just found at the end that I didn't much care about Rimbaud's fate. I did wonder whether he gave up poetry so suddenly because he had exhausted what he wanted to say or was simply disgusted by the artistic life he led in Paris and elsewhere. Nicholl is unable to provide any definitive answers since Rimbaud would immediately change the subject if anyone mentioned his earlier years. I confess the poetry (extracts of which are quoted) has no appeal for me whatsoever, which adds to my overall lack of engagement in the story.
I purchased this biography after seen the film Total Eclipse Total Eclipse (film) with Paul Verlaine (David Thewlis) and Arthur Rimbaud (Leonardo DiCaprio).
I was looking forward to the read. I stopped reading when I got to page 30. I absolutely could not stand the fact that this book had so much French words/sentences/phrases. And the style of writing, it did not agree with me. I developed a headache.
Thank you Charles for "illuminating" this mystery man. You give readers such great insight into character and local in your marvelous biographies. "The Lodger" Shakespeare. "Flights of the Mind" Da Vinci and "Somebody Else" Rimbaud are all terrific reads. Orville Stoeber
This review really answered a lot of questions about Rimbaud, and gave his legend a needed demystification. Put a lot of Rimbaud's poetry into context of a troubled adolescent seeking a father figure, freedom from a domineering mother, and of course alcholism...I for one found Rimbaud's poetry and legend among the cultural elite to be a bore, but his life was very exciting. A good read....