Teresa Waugh

Lovable Black Prince

Baudelaire

By Claude Pichois (Translated by Graham Robb)

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With much editing here and there, Graham Robb has produced a fine and eminently readable translation of Claude Pichois’s comprehensive life of Charles Baudelaire. Only for a fleeting moment when the young Charles ‘does’ his first communion did I raise my eyebrow. In England people ‘make’ their first Communion.

In fact I have a copy of the French edition of the book most of which I read a few years ago when it came out, and I think it would be fair to say that Robb has given us something infinitely more readable than the original. One would have to be truly head-over-heels in love with the poète maudit of Les Fleurs du Mal to want to know the minutiae of his mother’s obscure ancestry… or a more than usually meticulous scholar. Monsieur Pichois is, I suggest, both. His immensely erudite, annotated edition of the poet’s complete works (Pléiade) is every Baudelaire student’s Bible.

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