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Rimbaud: A Biography

4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  558 ratings  ·  27 reviews
Unknown beyond the avant-garde at the time of his death, Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891) has been one of the most destructive and liberating influences on twentieth-century culture. During his lifetime he was a bourgeois-baiting visionary, and the list of his known crimes is longer than the list of his published poems. But his posthumous career is even more astonishing: saint t ...more
Paperback, 592 pages
Published December 17th 2001 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2000)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,259)
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John
I must state at the outset that my comments here do not constitute a review of Graham Robb’s biography of Rimbaud – not in any strict sense that I know, not entirely, that is. I, for one, am unable to form any conception of another life that might approach a clear and accurate approximation of past reality by grappling with only one biography. The reasons are many, and I need not recount them here. In the present case my remarks arise from a sense of the man that is a concoction of ingredients f ...more
Eddie Watkins
There will never be a single biography that does Rimbaud total justice, and that's as it should be being the mystery man he was. Rimbaud lived his entire life on the "edge", be it the edge of meaning or the edge of civilization and "civilized" behavior; and because of this he himself didn't have the time or desire for looking back or specifying in retrospect what he was up to. He was always riding the wave of the Present Tense (or even ahead of it, in the never-attained Future) as long as he liv ...more
Jim Coughenour
A few weeks ago I picked up John Ashbery's celebrated translation of Rimbaud's Illuminations and as I was browsing through it I realized I had only the sketchiest notion of Rimbaud's life – essentially a few mangled fragments from Enid Starkie's 1968 doorstop and some noxious images from Total Eclipse. All I knew was that he'd written a handful of iconoclastic poems, had filthy sex with Verlaine, then pitched it all aside and wandered off to Africa to die.

Graham Robb's biography, as I expected a
...more
Sonia
I don't think there are many people in this world that have the ability to simutaneously allure and repulse, but based on Robb's biography, I would assign Rimbaud to this category.

I read biographies because in many instances it's the only way to feel as if you're meeting someone you can never meet - because of life circumstances or, of course, death. When I hear of someone that I find interesting, I make it a point to find out more about him/her and sometimes the only way to do that is to read/w
...more
Bookthesp1
This whizzes into my Top ten Best Ever Biography (you don't get that in High Fidelity) because Robb manages to write sublime caustic prose that corrects both the record and the myth that surrounds Rimbaud. Robb knows his stuff and writes beautiful lyrical prose whilst also being alive to the obsfuscations and mistakes made by earlier writers. We see Rimbaud as an enfant terrible writing poetry that both harked back to the remnants of romanticism but also looked forward to modernism and beyond. W ...more
Shawn Grall
This is one of the best biographies I have ever read. Rimbaud was as fascinating as he was unlikable. Graham Robb's balanced portrayal of Rimbaud and his dry humour, in the form of wry observations, make this a great read. Highly recommended.
Quicksilver Quill
I have read and enjoyed several books by Graham Robb, but this is still my favorite. If you are a fan of Arthur Rimbaud—or even if you have never read his work at all—this biography provides a fascinating glimpse into the life and times of this genius poet and vagabond.

Rimbaud’s adventurous existence was every bit as engrossing as his visionary poems—and the author expertly traces his life from young French bohemian to gunrunning explorer in Africa. While this is the only Rimbaud bio I have rea
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Solor

'I became a fabulous opera.. Morality is a weakness of the brain..I’ve created all the feasts, all the triumphs, all the dramas. I’ve tried to invent new flowers; new stars, new flesh, new languages. I believed I’d gained supernatural powers. Ah well! I must bury my imagination and my memories! Sweet glory as an artist and story-teller swept away!.....'

By the end of 1888, most of foreign trade in southern Abyssinia revolves around Arthur Rimbaud. He is importer, exporter, financier, main man for
...more
Audrey
p. 322: "Anyway, let's hope we can enjoy a few years of true repose in this life; and it's a good thing that this life is the only one and that it's obvious that it is, since it's impossible to imagine another life more tedious than this!"
So why did Rimbaud suddenly give up writing creatively? He got bored of it and moved on. Story of his life. This is an excellent biography on the "enfant terrible" Arthur Rimbaud, from his days as a filthy, lice-infested anarchic boy genius who wrote avant-gard
...more
Ryal Woods
I’ve been trying to write a review of Graham Robb’s biography of Arthur Rimbaud for my Goodreads page, and all I can come up with is “When I regress, I want to be Rimbaud.”

read the rest of my thoughts on Rimbaud on my website stories for boys http://in2thewood.com/2012/07/03/ma-b...

This is an excellent and thorough biography. I'm deducting one star because I would like to have seen examples of his poems included. This is a frustration when Robb talks about them in the text. Most likely those who
...more
Hal
A lengthy in depth biography of the poet Arthur Rimbaud. I had read "The Illuminations" one of his key works of poetry though I have to say did not remember much about it. Also Rimbaud was one of Jim Morrisons' literary models in his music and poetry. Rimbaud obviously was a genius but like many his life was one of great tumult and struggle. Much to his own making he lived his younger years in utter squalor, poverty, and rebellion. Later he drifted his way to east Africa to get involved in gun t ...more
Jazzy Lemon
What did we know about this teenage libertine poet with the brilliant blue eyes? What we didn't know about the rest of his life is probably more eye-opening. Here was a man who as a trader and explorer truly went where no one had ever gone before. Arthur was a beat poet long before Ginsberg and Kerouac, an artistic soul til he died, although he no longer wrote poetry, his letters were florid, and he had a keen eye for photography. A must-read for those who find their voice in his youthful works.
Mary
Looking forward to Robb's Balzac and Hugo and anything else
he has written or will write. Plenty of people can do exhaustive
research, but few who have the persistence and patience for that
work also have the talent, the flair, for turning the facts unearthed
into an endlessly fascinating story such as this. Here's to more Robb!
and
Mar 16, 2015 and rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: poems
this biography isn't especially sympathetic w/ Rimbaud's political engagement, at one point calling "What's it to us" an ode to the hydrogen bomb. but he covers the latter part of Rimbaud's life & points out affinities between rimbaud's poetry & his expeditions in Harar/ Abyssinia, which is at times incredibly uncanny.
Will
re-reading for a fourth time. this is one of my favorite biographies from one of my favorite biographers. robb's portrait cuts through the lice, filth, and mythos surrounding the late 19th century vagabond demigogue and symbolist poet. highly recommended.
George Ilsley
Insanely readable, a biography worth reading and re-reading. Rimbaud is endlessly fascinating, although of course it is more entertaining to read about him than to have been in his writing group and have him be so dismissive of your lack of talent.
Paul Reichstein
One of my favourite biographies. This is such a detailed look at one of the most volatile homosexual relationships in literary history and a fascinating and beautifully researched history of French poetry's Enfant Terrible.
M
Great biog of the child genius, with plenty of discussion of the importance of his poetry etc, but I think the bit when he gives it all up and goes off to Africa to become a gun runner is just as good, if not better...
Dave Jenkins
Could not put it down. Very well written!
C Hellisen
A fascinating look at the truth behind the Rimbaud myths. I really like the way this biographer writes, with a kind of amused, loving contempt for his subject. I'd be interested in reading his other works.
Sabrina
This is prolix and dense and frankly, not worthy of an ordinary reader's time. The author is pretentious and long-winded and manages to mummify the energetic life of a true visionary.
Lenore
given to me by an old college professor at my undergrad graduation. really entertaining read.
Daniel Burton-Rose
Includes a thoroughly unromantic depiction of Rimbaud's creepy dealings in East Africa.
Gert Van
Wat een leven! Compromisloos als geen ander. Wat een werk! Volstrekt origineel.
Nick
Sep 04, 2011 Nick marked it as to-read
all those years ago studying french poetry - still looking for more!
Keith Miller
Rimbaud: A Biography by Graham Robb (2000)
Lindsey
easy to read and even funny in bits
Charlotte Roulet
Charlotte Roulet marked it as to-read
Apr 21, 2015
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Graham Macdonald Robb FRSL (born June 2, 1958) is a British author.

Robb was born in Manchester and educated at the Royal Grammar School Worcester and Exeter College, Oxford, where he studied Modern Languages. He earned a PhD in French literature at Vanderbilt University.

He won the 1997 Whitbread Book Award for best biography (Victor Hugo) and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Rimbau
...more
More about Graham Robb...
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“If the mystery can be reduced to one solution, it lies in a simple coincidence: Rimbaud's interest in his own work had survived the realization that the world would not be changed by verbal innovation. It did not survive the failure of all his adult relationships. He had always treated poems as a form of private communication. He gave his songs to chansonniers, his satires to satirists. Without a constant companion, he was writing in a void.” 3 likes
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