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Paris Spleen (New Directions Paperbook)
Author: Baudelaire, Charles
Section: Poetry
Owner: victoryspirit (Rating: 0)
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Status: Available [Check Out]
Owner Review: From Amazon:

"Charles Baudelaire's Paris Spleen is a wonderfully original work, one happily outside the framework of American literature and its broad range of sensibilities. Most notably, these 51 short prose poems illustrate how truth, and the most accurate perceptions of life possible, can be reached purely by honing the senses and then melding them with the more passive facilities of the mind; logic and rational thinking, as demonstrated here, are for the vulgar, those in denial, those simply unable to accept the very rich, very broad, self-evident smorgasbord of life. Baudelaire, both a tragic and a comedic clown, also effortlessly illustrates how melancholy and joy are by no means mutually exclusive categories of human feeling and experience. Set largely against specifically autumnal landscapes, our wandering poet indulges in "the mysterious and aristocratic pleasure of watching" whenever he is not a direct participant in the events these visionary pieces describe. Solitary, 'fluent in outrage,' cranky, self-tormented, lovelorn, misanthropic, and pedagogical by turns, these pieces find the poet stalking bereaved widows, peering unseen through the candle-lit windows of neighbor's homes, asking philosophical questions of "enigmatical" strangers, shunning crowds, luxuriating in midnight solitude, greeting the twilight with a bow, reading the time of day in a cat's eyes, "suffering before Beauty" in all its forms, futilely but vocally castigating inflexible Dame Nature, advising the world on the varieties of glorious drunkenness, dreaming of tempting devils, beating the poor, pitying aged, poverty-stricken circus performers, rebelling against infinity, arguing with mistresses, and listening, eavesdropping, and relentlessly observing wherever he goes. Not surprisingly, the poet's vision of urban Paris lies somewhere between the multiple canvases of Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec; garishly colored, slightly grotesque, heavily populated with heavy, heaving women and friable grande dames, Baudelaire's city is a fluid and respiring stage for life's pantomime, open to and allowing for all combinations and possibilities. By contrast, his autumnal countryside is a place of relative purity, where the poet wanders alone under piercing blue skies and roaming, shadow-casting clouds. In one of the more hallucinatory episodes, the poet, "under a vast gray sky, on a vast and dusty plain" comes upon a short procession of men with "worn and serious faces," each of whom carries a very large, monstrous chimera on his back, the muscles, tendons and limbs of the beasts wrapped tightly around them. None the wiser after his inevitable questions, the poet observes that "under the depressing dome of the sky" the men moved past and beyond him, each "with the resigned look of men who are condemned to hope forever." Paris Spleen is a wise, serious, and occasionally dour work. But if its only sometimes-tragic underpinnings and conclusions are embraced by the reader, then its vibrant, bawdy, colorful, and transcendent aspect will reveal itself shamelessly in turn. Baudelaire is so confident, unselfconscious, and plain-spoken that his perceptions are remarkably easy to visualize, his emotions as expressed easy to share and make one's own. It's a rare book that is as multi-prismed as this. Baudelaire implies that if man could accept mortality, reasonably subdue his ego, and curb his more flagrant dreams, life would fall into the glittering, far from perfect, but certainly tolerable and potentially enjoyable miracle it really is. The poet seems to reach the same conclusion about life that Isak Dinsen does at the end of Out Of Africa: man must accept, without exclusion, every facet, aspect, element, and component of existence before existence-before life--will give anything back to man. In no way a despairing book, Paris Spleen is a sheer pleasure to read, contemplate, discuss, laugh over, and digest. Readers will carry their copy in their back pocket until it falls into tatters, and force copies on friends, family, and strangers. Beautifully translated by Louise Varese. Highly recommended, especially to the non-creative who would like to see, however briefly, as a poet sees."

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