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Rimbaud Complete (Modern Library Classics) Paperback – January 14, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

A brand-new translation and the only complete one.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Rimbaud, the almost unbelievably gifted enfant terrible of nineteenth-century French poetry, goes in and out of poetic fashion regularly. Often his biography overwhelms his poems: stealing the older poet Paul Verlaine from his wife for a drug-and-drink-addled affair, all the while creating poems that would alter the course of French literature, only to give up literature at 19 and become a commercial traveler and gunrunner (see Graham Robb's excellent Rimbaud, 2000). He would be merely an oddity were it not that his poems are indeed splendid, including such nonpareil prose poems as the great sequences Illuminations and A Season in Hell. This useful volume includes all of the poetry as well as various letters that spell out Rimbaud's aesthetic. The translation is literal, to a fault when, too often, it becomes wooden. Furthermore, Mason generally keeps Rimbaud's rhyme schemes and other poetic devices but, inexplicably, not always. Still, the French originals appear in a big appendix, assuring that, despite its shortcomings, this is an important introduction of Rimbaud to another generation of readers. Patricia Monaghan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Classics
  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; Reprint edition (January 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375757708
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375757709
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #449,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Robert Soloman on March 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Some unnamed reviewer up above claims "There have been no fully satisfactory translations of the brilliant modernist forerunner Rimbaud." Whoever wrote that clearly didn't read Wyatt Mason's new translation of Rimbaud's complete works very carefully, because it's a lot more that satisfactory: it's beautiful. While the Wallace Fowlie translation (the blue one) is dependable, it's nothing more than that. It's good if you read French pretty well and need some help. But if you want to try to experience Rimbaud's poems in English as Poems, Mason's work is the only time I've found myself reading along and finding that he's caught both the meanings of words and the feeling of the poems (my mother is French, so I have read Rimbaud in the original). Mason's introduction is also, far and away, the best brief essay on Rimbaud's life and art imaginable, and it also talks really interestingly about translating poetry, and how he's gone about it. This is also the only edition available in English that contains everything Rimbaud wrote. The others, even if they say they're complete, don't come close. Neither do the other translators. I can't recommend this book enough.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Nelson on May 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is said to be the most complete collection of Rimbaud's works ever collected in English and includes some of his early schoolwork, rough drafts, incomplete writings notes & ideas. To a Rimbaudophile such as myself this is an incredible resource; and perhaps the last great addition to the study of Rimbaud and his poetry ever, unless, miracle of miracles, the lost manuscript of "La Chasse Spirituelle" were to be discovered in some dead French book collector's attic. Alas! Until then we must be satisfied (and grateful) with being able to read and compare early drafts of A Season in Hell, or some early texts translated into English for the first time. In addition to this volume, Mason has also collected Rimbaud's correspondence in "I Promise to be Good" (2003). This companion volume includes a previously unpublished photograph of Rimbaud in Abyssinia (on the cover & inside as well) and reads like an autobiography of sorts.

I've put Wyatt Mason's translations of Rimbaud on my best books of all time list ("Heavy Hitters, Inspiration, & Enlightenment") because Rimbaud's poetry was revolutionary in its time and influential in our own. Mason's goal is to ". . . find common, rather than middle, ground between the two poles represented by Fowlie and Schmidt," (other translations worth comparing) and his focus is on how Rimbaud "might have written" were he writing in English. I suppose it all comes down to what concepts of translation you prefer; for the most part I like Mason's style and the rhythm and structure of the originals seem to be there. It is always interesting to see different authors, and especially poets, interpret original texts in a foreign language. The fact is not everyone will be pleased with the results (cf. critical reviews on Amazon). The solution?
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60 of 70 people found the following review helpful By N'body on May 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
First, it ought to said that, as poetry in English, this translation of Rimbaud fails utterly. Mason indicates in the introduction that he attempts to walk the line between literal and 'poetic' translation. If by this he means that he neither resorts to the kind of inanity with which Paul Schmidt destroyed Rimbaud for late 20th-century Americans, nor to the faithful but poetically unsatisfying Fowlie edition, then he's telling at least a version of the truth. But who could not, with fluent French and enough time, translate French works faithfully into prose? And yet because he is comparatively a novice writer in English of the analogous sort of poetry to that which Rimbaud wrote in French, the concessions and compromises he must make are just terrible as regards both the literal and technical aspects of the poems. Concerning the early (verse) poems, it becomes quickly clear that the translator has no skill as a versifier. Translating requires a resourcefulness bred of technical experience. I don't know if Mason writes original poems, but if so they must be of a very modern sort, which is to say contemporary (as opposed to Modernist) free verse. Of course few people now have good ears for versification, but to those who do--to those who wish a translation to convey something of the greatness, at least, of the original--the technical performance sounds woefully like that of a beginner. His rhymes are forced, his syntax is wrenched for rhymes that aren't particularly good in the first place, and his meter is extremely slack if it exists at all. This is particularly a problem as the greatness of Rimbaud's 40-some-odd early poems derives in large part from his technical genius.Read more ›
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
It's true that this translation includes some writings by Rimbaud never before (so far as I know) available or accessible to a reader strictly limited to english. But, should you spend your hard earned money on it? That's a difficult question. I wish I hadn't.
Wyatt Mason's english:
"...The Gospel! The Gospel!
I await God, hungrily.
There I am..."
the french (included in the rear of the book):
"...l'Evangile! l'Evangile!
J'attends Dieu avec gourmandise. Je suis de race inferieure de toute eternite.
Me voici sur..."
What happened to "Je suis de race inferierue de toute eternite"!
I gave this book three stars because it contains writings never before available to the strictly english reader.
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