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A Season in Hell & Illuminations

4.29  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,604 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
“The definitive translation for our time.”
–Edward Hirsch

From Dante’s Inferno to Sartre’s No Exit, writers have been fascinated by visions of damnation. Within that rich literature of suffering, Arthur Rimbaud’s A Season in Hell–written when the poet was nineteen–provides an astonishing example of the grapple with self.

As a companion to Rimbaud’s journey, readers could hav
Paperback, Modern Library Classics, 240 pages
Published August 9th 2005 by Modern Library (first published January 1st 1961)
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They Won't Shut Up by Cindy J.  SmithThe Complete Stories and Poems by Edgar Allan PoeVoices In My Head by Cindy J.  SmithThe Complete Poems by Emily DickinsonThe Waste Land and Other Poems by T.S. Eliot
Your Favourite Book of Poetry.
29th out of 452 books — 418 voters
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Classic French Literature
43rd out of 336 books — 177 voters

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Community Reviews

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May 15, 2012 Kate rated it it was amazing
A friend's boyfriend in college pounded on my door at 3am. I woke up groggy and let him in. "Hey, you like poetry, right? Well I got a poem for ya." Ok, I said. I sat on the bed and he began to read "Once if I remember it well, my life was a feast where all hearts opened and all wines flowed..." He read on and on... I said "How long is this poem?" He said "It's the whole book!" I laughed. And we became good friends, and have been ever since. Rimbaud introduced us.
Jan 16, 2010 Hilary rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Sean
Recommended to Hilary by: Megan McPherson
Shelves: fiction, poetry, 2010
A Season in Hell & Illuminations was a book that I was introduced to in the dead of night. I was handed the text and asked to read and, being me, proceeded to open to random pages and read aloud in an impassioned tone. When read like this - in the middle of the night with all of its magic and attractions, the text is like fire.

Rimbaud's words alternatively scorch and caress, they raise up the most enlivened fancies and play out dark fantasies unlike anything else one could ever be exposed to
Jun 06, 2008 Andy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: gloomy doomy kids
When I was a mere slip of a boy and my flesh tasted like chicken and goth had not quite creeped into non-existence I would sulk in dimly lit buses reading Rimbaud.
"Illuminations" reminds me of Baudelaire's "Paris Spleen" in that these are not poems so much as they are prose pieces, little snatches of light of varying shades. This is good reading on rainy nights.
Dec 17, 2014 Ben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am going to try to make this review brief, particularly as I've already reviewed about 4 other translations of Rimbaud's poetry (by Varèse, Fowlie, Mason and Schmidt) and in my last review of one of these (of Schmidt's treatment of Rimbaud) I made a concise comparison of each of the different translations, really putting my support behind Mason's translation, finding Fowlie too literal and feeling that Schmidt took too many liberties in his translation.

Bertrand Mathieu's translation of A Seas
Vilém Zouhar
May 14, 2015 Vilém Zouhar rated it liked it
Many of you might find this book depressing or even pessimistic. But I think of it rather as a celebration of life.
After reading the first two sentences I realised I need to know something about Rimbaud himself first. The book seems like the manifestation of his whole life. If you're about to read this book, read something about Rimbaud first too (one wikipedia article is sufficent).
I came to this book because of Kudera's books, where there are several references to Rimbaud and the whole Kundera
Mar 14, 2012 Ty rated it did not like it
"i hate this." i accidentally saw a death metal band live one time and that's what the singer kept screaming into the mic (as the other band members threw beers and ripped-up bible pages at the audience). but really, i hate this. i don't get these poems or whatever. illuminations contains surreal scenes that just fly over me and paint nothing for me. a season in hell was OK though. only very rarely did this collection click with me.
Oct 29, 2008 Jessica is currently reading it
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
poets repulse me with their god forsaken wankerings. However, I've decided that I can include most other artists and humans for that matter, in the repulsive category so I decided to set my hatred aside and get this book. I'm really enjoying it.
Jeff Jackson
Aug 04, 2008 Jeff Jackson rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone looking for good Rimbaud translation
Translations matter with Rimbaud. Francophile extraordinaire and Rimbaud enthusiast Dennis Cooper rates Enid Peschel Rhodes' translation published by Oxford Univrersity Press as the best. For my taste, he's absolutely right.
Oct 10, 2009 Sofie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What to say? It's Rimbaud, and on one hand I really enjoy reading this book, but on the other, I don't. At all. It may take me a few more of his books to find out whether I like him or not.
Mar 03, 2007 Autumn rated it liked it
i read this during my personal season in hell that i thought would never end. it was good to know that rimbaud and i have some things in common.
Oct 07, 2008 Mr. rated it it was amazing
Rimbaud skillfully draws the reader into the world of damnation, the world of the self. He confronts the essence of nihilism and self-loathing in this remarkable poem, composed at the astonishing age of 19. Like Dante, Milton, and perhaps Pound, Rimbaud is able to bend the language to engage the reader in a transcendental understanding of the human condition and psyche.

There are poems in here of promethean beauty that prefigure the rebellious spirit of French artistic bohemians in the dawn of t
Ian Drew Forsyth
A Season in Hell quotes:

it dawned on me to look again for the key to that ancient party where I might find my appetite once more.
I despise all trades. Foreman and workmen--all of them, peasants, riff-raff. The hand that writes is as good as the hand that ploughs.--What a century of hands!--I'll never own my own hand. Next, domesticity goes too far. The honesty of begging sickens me. Criminals are as disgusting as castrati. Myself, I'm intact, and I don't give a damn.
the gospel's passe!
I wait for
May 28, 2015 Adam rated it really liked it
Do yourself a favor: read this once when you're young, and never again. The memories will be dearer if untarnished by a foolhardy attempt to reexperience.
Aug 30, 2014 T. rated it it was ok
While I can appreciate what Rimbaud was doing in many of these pieces, I kind of just felt like I was reading the ravings of a 19 year old boy who was in love with an older man. Because, well, that's essentially what a Season in Hell is.

However, Rimbaud's use of the poetic image, displaced location (that's what I'm going to call it since I don't know if it has an actual literary term), and his abstraction of the noun in Illuminations definitely redeemed this book in my eyes. It no longer felt pe
Jan 23, 2008 Alfonso rated it it was amazing
If someone told me this was the greatest work of literature anyone had ever created, I wouldn't necessarily disagree. Rimbaud's style, not quite poetry and certainly not prose, took the writing world by storm and changed it forever. His work has gone on to influence everyone from Joyce to the Beats to John Lennon. Dark, tortured, tragic, magnificent, and solely unique and original even after a hundred years. It'd be difficult to think of someone more influential than Rimbaud and the short but in ...more
Melissa Connolly
This book was interesting but I probably need to study it more to understand it all... You can read my full review on my blog here:
Jan 13, 2015 Cherie rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Beautiful poetry.
Mar 30, 2008 Sam rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
The most passionate collection of poetry I've ever read. At times hateful, raging, self-deprecating, pitiful, and serene. The only English translation worth reading is the one by Bertrand Mathieu. This is simply the two greatest books of French poetry collected into one. He speaks like a prophet condemning himself to hell. His prose poetry is striking, has beautiful cadence, powerful imagery, and is delivered with tremendous ferocity.
Apr 01, 2012 Jessica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Let's say I'm not in the proper frame of mind to read this kind of work and actually relate to it emotionally. I get how much he was suffering (and how completely stoned he was when he wrote it) but it didn't move me much and that's one of the things I value the most about poetry so... Maybe it was the translation. Maybe if I knew enough French to read it in its original version.... Nah, maybe not even then.
If I had to name a favorite poet, it would probably be Arthur Rimbaud. His work is rich with imagery and meaning, each poem holding an entire story. Even better is the way this collection works as a whole, reading like an epic saga. It's a rare thing when I enjoy sitting down to read poetry, but I would happily return to this book time and again. ...more
Jul 07, 2012 Michael rated it it was amazing
Such youthful passion and extreme feelings. This is forever the work of youth and wild abandon. Never read anything by Rimbaud until A Season Of Hell and was bowled over by the words...such beautiful, elegant, and fiery words! Have reread this twice and can really see what all the fuss is about for Rimbaud.
Nov 18, 2013 Redsteve rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I cannot stand this translation. Too many Americanisms: "buddies", "clobbered", "little buddy", "mind-blowing jive". understand that the translator is trying to make Rimbaud accessable to modern Americans, but I'd much rather he just stuck to translating French into the Engish of the same period.
Jun 22, 2009 Barry rated it really liked it
Rimbaud wrote all his poems by the age of 21. the depth of insight and creativity from such a young man are humbling. one wonders if he had any more to say and couldn't express it or if whatever drove his literary aspirations was dissipated by his twenties.
Jul 24, 2014 Angela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this in combo with a few other translations. This was by far the flattest translation of the lot. Still...AMAZE. Can't believe I didn't read this in my teens like every other awesome and/or cool person alive. Guess I'm not cool.
Nov 11, 2012 Hameed rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Extremely poor translation; unnecessary ALL CAPS, forced italics, short sentences (even with little command of french one can notice) transformed into longer sensational phrases. Not worth a read, look elsewhere.
Alfred Bates
Dec 24, 2010 Alfred Bates rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
It was pretty good. I read it kind of fast for poetry though, so I'm going to have to read it again some other time and analyze it. But from what I read it was pretty awesome.
Josh Paul
Feb 10, 2008 Josh Paul rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Like Rilke, I don't care for him as much as everyone else seems to, but the occasional great line or section makes him worth reading anyway. He has more energy than Rilke.
m. soria
Aug 04, 2008 m. soria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i was given this book. i was given a very ratty, notated copy of this book. it made me want to die young while attempting to cross the alps on foot in february.
Nathan Pearson
Kaleidoscopic. Even in translation (here by Bertrand Mathieu, who has a good ear), Rimbaud's most free-roving work could do hauntingly well set to music.
John Cox
Dec 09, 2007 John Cox marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
When I lived in Paris in the early 90s I had a French period. I read Verlaine, Cocteau, Genet, Gide, and others but haven't read this one yet.
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  • Maldoror and Poems
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  • Collected Poems and Other Verse
  • Watchfiends and Rack Screams: Works from the Final Period
  • Selected Writings
  • Selected Poems
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  • The Book of Images
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  • An American Prayer
  • Collected Poems
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  • Complete Poems
French poet and adventurer, who stopped writing verse at the age of 21, and became after his early death an inextricable myth in French gay life. Rimbaud's poetry, partially written in free verse, is characterized by dramatic and imaginative vision. "I say that one must be a visionary - that one must make oneself a VISIONARY." His works are among the most original in the Symbolist movement. Rimbau ...more
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