am 28. November 1999
I'm not an expert on Baudelaire, but seekers of his beautiful and macabre poetry shold know that this translation is considered by the cognoscenti to be the definitive English language version of Flowers of Evil. The translator is Richard Howard, and since Amazon offers no information or critical views on this book, here are a few quotes from the back of this complete edition:
"[It] will long stand as definitive...superb." -- 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." -- New York Times Book Review
"Not until now has there been an edition of the entire work which successfully captures the distinctive voice of Baudelaire.... [T]he definitive translation in the foreseeable future." -- Boston Globe
"It is indubitably the English edition to acquire." -- Washington Post Book World
"An intelligent response to the poem's meaning informs almost every translation in this volume." -- The New Republic
Richard Howard, by the way, is said to be "generally esteemed as the finest translator from the French of the postwar era." I have two other translations, and this is without a doubt the best of the three. While it helps to have more than one translation of a book of poetry (occasionally a lesser translation can strike a more felicitous poetic note or get an idea across more clearly; at the least, several translations give you a better sense of the meaning) this is the translation I would recommend as the hub of the wheel, if you get my point. I think it is indispensable. If you'd like, you can e-mail me and I'd be happy to transcribe a couple of the translations.
One final detail: the poems in the original French follow the English translations.
am 24. Juni 2000
The most misunderstood aspect in Baudelaire's mind is to believe Baudelaire thought evil was an exception, while it formed the rule to which the flowers were the despised growth choked by the very ground from which they sprang.
What did Baudelaire write about? Flowers of Evil. Why? To find the new. How? Plunging deep in the Unknown. Where? Any Where Out of the World.
Charles Baudelaire is beyond doubt one of the most important poets for modern literature--for "post-modern" and thereafter, too. Baudelaire has still to be caught up to by the world, that should read Flowers of Evil still were all else destroyed. Baudelaire represents himself as an erotic Gothic Swedenborgian dandy, prostrating himself in his temple of spirituality before the cult of sensibility and personality. His language--always silent--tells of intense self-overcoming refining itself into the purity of vision, of the existential pursuit of a personally determined means for an authentic and better perfected life.
The attractions of novelties, rarities, curiosities or oddities line most of his store, but only to better light the strange awareness Baudelaire brought to his life. The Flowers of Evil are martyrs sacrificing themselves in their swamps of matter incensing the skies of the ideal. The poems, the same as all of Baudelaire's work, are sad prophecies of Baudelaire's own neglected and misunderstood demise. The most misunderstood aspect of all is to believe Baudelaire thought evil was an exception, while it formed the rule to which the flowers were the despised growth choked by the very ground from which they sprang.