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Les Fleurs Du Mal First edition, second printing Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0879234621
ISBN-10: 0879234628
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Editorial Reviews


"Baudelaire revoiced...Howard's achievement is such that we can be confident that his Flowers of Evil will long stand as definitive, a superb guide to France's greatest poet." --The Nation

"Readers of English do not have to take Baudelaire on faith any longer. For the first time he is present among us, vivid and surprisingly intact, in these fine translations." --The New York Times Book Review

"A deft and patient new translation of Les Fleurs Du Mal...Howard, it seems to me, has done what he has set out to, has given us, in English and in verse, a Baudelaire both immediately recognizable and impressively varied...It is a considerable achievement." --The New York Review of Books

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation) --This text refers to the Kindle Edition edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: David R. Godine; First edition, second printing edition (October 1, 1985)
  • Language: English, French
  • ISBN-10: 0879234628
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879234621
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #426,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
You have to be a detective when you're looking for customer reviews of translations of Great Books Not in English. For example, does anyone know that this is the Richard Howard translation? That would be valuable to know, but this virtual bookstore doesn't think that's important enough to tell you, so I'm telling you. (Then again, who knows where you are reading this?). This certainly is the first and most important thing any literate person buying an English edition of Baudelaire would want to know. Hence, this review.
This - Richard Howard's translation, published by Godine - ISBN: 0879234628 - is the most meticulous and lyrical in English. Although it should go without saying, Les Fleurs du Mal is a book of poems. These are poems written in the 19th century. In France. In French. Not 21st century France. Not 21st century French. Certainly not English prose masquerading as verse. Something very specific. So, even before the reader can get to the fact that it's Baudelaire, he needs to be relocated, as it were, and not have to worry about the process. Put another way, getting from there to here requires a guide. No one is better qualified for that task than Richard Howard. And he has succeeded in ways that no previous English translation has managed. This is only possible because, in addition to being the present translator, Richard Howard is one of America's finest poets. As RH knows better than anyone, "giving pleasure means taking pains." This translator has taken pains and given us a heady whiff of CB's "sickly flowers."
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Format: Paperback
... This book does indeed include the original French version in its second half, and Richard Howard's breathtakingly vivid and vital English translation in its first half. This is the definitive English translation of Les Fleurs du Mal, and by far my favorite.
As to the substance of this remarkable book of poetry, Baudelaire's work is one of such groundbreaking genius on so many levels that it may never be equaled. He has achieved Gustave Flaubert's great aim of "le seul mot juste" (the unique right word) with such consistency that one can only smile in amazement and wonder. The aural music created by this poetry intoxicates as the meaning of the words strikes deep into the heart of the reader, putting into words thoughts and feelings that he could never express. These alternate with shocking and horrifying images that bring to mind Kafka's "Metamorphosis." Longing, irony, desolation, desire, betrayal, anger, melancholy, ecstasy, alienation, and more are Baudelaire's subjects, and his words are the arrows in his quiver that never miss their mark. A few of my favorites are: The Albatross, Elevation, Hymn to Beauty, The Head of Hair, The Cat, Spleen III, The Clock, and Hymn.
As a look into the human heart and mind, I rank this work with Michel de Montaigne's "Essays." It would also land on my list of universal, desert-island books.
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Format: Paperback
Let me declare immediately that I agree with the other reader-reviews here: Richard Howard's translations of these poems are rich, sensual, potent, lurid renderings. His verse forgoes the shoehorn of obeying the foreign rhymes (a decision shared by Dante's best translators) and pursues instead a laden, incantatory English that is utterly full and alive--really alive and vital, almost writhing in his versions of Baudelaire's most charnel poems (like "Carrion," "Against Her Levity," and the grim crescendo of "To the Reader"), and with a nearly pungent eros in the coutless mistress poems. One need only read the French originals (included in the book's second half) to appreciate the alchemy of Howard's admixture of fidelity and music. They don't sound self-conscious like most translations, and I find myself reading them aloud.
But as for the whole volume--well, despite Howard's introductory apologia and his Keats quip, we could use explanatory notes, even if they're just stashed inobtrusively in the back, as with the Oxford Press edition. Howard calls such notes an "overbearing gloss," but we could always ignore them, if we wanted, so I don't see what the danger is. I find context valuable--after all, Baudelaire wrote within one. Howard's Baudelaire both stirs and harrows me, but it also awakens an earnest and respectful curiosity, the kind that must bring any translator to their authors in the first place, and ironically my proper curiosity makes this unannotated book incomplete.
I appreciate Howard's stout chronolgy of Baudelaire's life and work, but we could use an account of Baudelaire's aims, of symbolist poetry, of his sources and his impact.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
As both poet and critic, Baudelaire stands in relation to French and European poetry as Gustave Flaubert and Edouard Manet do to fiction and painting; as a crucial link between Romanticism and modernism and as a supreme example, in both his life and work, of what it means to be a modern artist. His catalytic influence was recognized in the nineteenth century by Rimbaud, Verlaine, Mallarmé and Swinburne and, in the twentieth century by Valèry, Rilke and T.S. Eliot.
Baudelaire's poetic masterpiece, the 1861 edition of Les Fleurs du mal (Flowers of Evil) consists of 126 poems arranged in six sections of varying length. Baudelaire always insisted that the collection was not a "simple album" but had "a beginning and an end," each poem revealing its full meaning only when read in relation to the others within the "singular framework" in which it is placed. A prefatory poem makes it clear that Baudelaire's concern is with the general human predicament of which his own is representative. The collection may best be read in the light of the concluding poem, Le Voyage, as a journey through self and society in search of some impossible satisfaction that forever eludes the traveler.
The first section, entitled Spleen et idéal, opens with a series of poems that dramatize contrasting views of art, beauty and the artist, who is depicted alternately as martyr, visionary, performer, pariah and fool.
The focus then shifts to sexual and romantic love, with the first-person narrator of the poems oscillating between extremes of ecstasy (idèal) and anguish (spleen) as he attempts to find fulfillment through a succession of women whom it is possible, if simplistic, to identify with Jeanne Duval, Apollonie Sabatier and Marie Daubrun.
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