Synopses & Reviews
The poetic masterpiece of the great nineteenth-century writer Charles Baudelaire, The Flowers of Evil is one of the most frequently read and studied works in the French language. In this compelling new translation of Baudelaire's most famous collection, Keith Waldrop recasts the poet's original French alexandrines and other poetic arrangements into versets, a form that hovers between poetry and prose. Maintaining Baudelaire's complex view of sound and structure, Waldrop's translation mirrors the intricacy of the original without attempting to replicate its inimitable verse. The result is a powerful new re-imagining, one that is, almost paradoxically, closer to Baudelaire's own poetry than any previous English translation. Including the six poems banned from the first edition, this Flowers of Evil preserves the complexity, eloquence, and dark humor of its author. Brought here to new life, it is hypnotic, frank, and forceful.
"The rendering of Baudelaire's ground-breaking classic into English has been tackled numerous times in various ways since the 19th century. In this version, rather than utilizing rhymed stanzas, free verse or prose, prolific poet and translator Waldrop attempts to capture Baudelaire's ever-elusive tone in versets, paragraphs of 'measured prose' similar to those used in the King James Bible. While readers may miss the compression and restraint that line breaks demanded in earlier translations, Waldrop does succeed in approaching Baudelaire's layered irony, at once serious and over-the-top, comic and scandalous. Reading 'Like some rake...gumming the brutalized tit of a superannuated whore' , it becomes clear why the French government saw fit to ban some of this work in 1857. At the same time, Baudelaire-the archetypal urban dandy-could see the beauty of a female beggar ('your sickly young body, densely freckled, has a sweetness for this poor poet'), identify himself with the 'awkward and ashamed' albatross abused by sailors, and see in a naked lover 'the hips of Antiope united with the bust of a beardless boy.' Waldrop sounds off on all-things-Baudelaire in an informative introduction. New translations of this seminal poet will continue to surface with each new generation of readers and writers: Waldrop brings a contemporary feels to Baudelaire's most important work." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The task of the translator...is to reconcile the strengths of the poet with his new surroundings, setting him in flight with wings that do not impede his walk. In part from landing on versets, but more particularly from his deftness in English and the depth of his understanding of Baudelaire, Keith Waldrop has created a Flowers of Evil
that, in one gesture, can come to terms with the new needs of poetry readers in English and the foreignness of the language of Les Fleurs du Mal
." Lucas Klein, Rain Taxi
(read the entire Rain Taxi review
A modernist classic translated for the twenty-first century.
About the Author
Charles Baudelaire (18211867) wrote some of the most innovative poetry of the nineteenth century, in books including Les Fleurs du Mal
and Le spleen de Paris
Keith Waldrop is author of numerous collections of poetry and is the translator of The Selected Poems of Edmond Jabes, as well as works by Claude Royet-Journoud, Anne-Marie Albiach, and Jean Grosjean.