Belinda Jack

Poetry, Profit and Loss

Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel

By

Atlantic Books 192pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

First and last, Rimbaud was an entrepreneur; so his was no ‘double life’. He embarked on new and invariably risky undertakings. Sometimes he won and sometimes he lost – mostly the latter, at least from his own perspective. The poet–gambler declared in his teens, in 1871 (the year of attempts by the communards to overthrow the established bourgeois order in Paris), that he was working to become a visionary: ‘The Poet becomes a seer through a long, immense and carefully reasoned disordering of all the senses’. In the same letter to Georges Izambard, the 22-year-old poet and schoolteacher who had most supported his pupil’s efforts to become an accomplished classicist and widely read in French literature, he declared his famous-to-the-point-of-cliché, ‘Je est un autre’, which Edmund White, curiously, translates twice in his deft and racy new biography: ‘I is another person’ or ‘I is someone else’. But Rimbaud’s poetry – startlingly fierce, vigorous in its engagement with reality and constantly experimenting with the limits of intelligibility – didn’t get him anywhere in life. 

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Her favourite design included a body in the shape of a horse, with a steam engine inside ... The passenger would t… ,
    • Sign up to our email newsletter below! Get free articles, highlights from the archive, and chances to win theatre… ,
    • RT : Founded in 1979, is a trusted independent source for reviews of new books across a variety of genres. A… ,
    • RT : Here we are - "Shelf Indulgence" by Ed Potten, a wonderful read, well worth your time: @Lit_Review,
    • 'Like going to a party hoping to get away as quickly as politeness allowed and at 4am finding myself still engrosse… ,
    • 'Neville never shed his sense of being the junior, and perhaps least-deserving Chamberlain.' From the archive, Mic… ,
    • 'The erecting and immediate destruction of a series of straw men rather detracts from what is for the most part an… ,