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Somebody Else: Arthur Rimbaud in Africa, 1880-91
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Somebody Else: Arthur Rimbaud in Africa, 1880-91

3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  82 Ratings  ·  11 Reviews
This is the story of Rimbaud`s `lost years' the years after he turned his back on poetry, and fame and France, for a life of wandering and obscurity in the wilds of East Africa. In this compelling biographical study, Charles Nicholl pieces together the shadowy story of Rimbaud`s life as a trader, explorer and gun-runner in Africa. We follow his trail across the Somali dese ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published May 19th 1997 by Jonathan Cape (first published 1997)
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3.5 stars

A brilliant child and a poetic genius, Rimbaud was a true prodigy who flared incandescently ("plus libre que les plus libres", as Verlaine said of him) for literally but half a decade (1870-1875), before burning himself out in a luminous epiphany of sexual and poetic debauchery.

Whereupon, after a few years of wandering about Europe (often on foot), he hurled himself, in what Nicholl calls "a sort of doomed existential adventure", into the very ends of the earth -- the desert wastes of
May 14, 2014 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting book, I would say. It's a mix of biographical narrative through which Nicholl interweaves reflections on the possibility of realizing a "complete and accurate" biography of anyone as well as bits and pieces of a memoir of his research and the writing of this particular volume. I find this sort of biographical work highly satisfying if for no other reason than than it forces the reader to confront and acknowledge a very simple fact - that a biography that pretends to "objectivi ...more
Jan 09, 2015 G rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nicholl produces much information and perspective on Arthur Rimbaud's later years based on what seems to be scarce, dubious, and otherwise limited (letters to mother and sister, 19th century business information tech, etc.) primary sources.

One trouble with this, on my reading, was the license Nicholl took (maybe less than a dozen times in the text) to embellish with a kind of giddy speculation and sentimentality. While it certainly seems natural? reasonable? absolutely expected? to interpret la
Simply magnificent. Nicholl is a brilliant writer, a tenacious investigator, and a sensitive interpreter of Rimbaud's life and works. The 200 pages that recreate Rimbaud's African years are frequently revelatory and always evocative in their details. This is literary biography of the highest calibre: perceptive, insightful, sympathetic and, yes, personal. The final pages soar off into a kind of doomed poetry that Arthur himself would have appreciated. A wonderful book.
Tony Glover
Jan 31, 2015 Tony Glover rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Charles Nicholl shapes often quite sparse material into such a readable form. His book about the murder of Christopher Marlowe, The Reckoning, is one of my favourite books. This book, Somebody Else, is about the last years of French poet Arthur Rimbaud. He had given up literature and gone to Africa to earn money.
Though this is a very enjoyable read, the personality of Rimbaud is hard to embrace - he's truculent, careless of his friends and seems driven by a incessant desire to keep moving. Rimb
Eddie Watkins
Oct 09, 2014 Eddie Watkins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Charles Nicholl is my favorite investigative biographer/historian, not that I really know that many. He loves to pick a juicy but ambiguous subject and then do some serious figurative & literal leg-work to fill in the story's gaps with plausible speculation. As a stylist he is exceedingly sensitive and at times while reading his books my eyes will drop into a particular description of something so minor yet so lovingly executed that flickers of heightened perceptions will smolder in my brain ...more
Denis Lejeune
Jan 20, 2016 Denis Lejeune rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Awesome achievement of a book. Superb sense of place and a great musing on a side (and time) of Rimbaud that is never explored or dealt at length with.

I will definitely re-read it one day.
Everyone remembers Rimbaud the punk poet, and every black-clad teen in the last fifty years has had a copy of "Season in Hell" there on the nightstand. Chas. Nicholl gives us Rimbaud the quarry foreman, the disappointed photographer, the gunrunner, the gaunt expat with the Abyssinian housekeeper/concubine, the merchant with a keen eye for cutting costs. "Somebody Else" is that long, forgotten second act of Rimbaud's life--- the boy from Charleville who disavowed his past (Verlaine, poetry, bohem ...more
Jul 27, 2016 Electric-guitar rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Absolutely NOT
Recommended to Electric-guitar by: Myself
Shelves: biography, history, poetry
I purchased this biography after seen the film Total Eclipse Total Eclipse (film) with Paul Verlaine (David Thewlis) and Arthur Rimbaud (Leonardo DiCaprio).

I was looking forward to the read. I stopped reading when I got to page 30. I absolutely could not stand the fact that this book had so much French words/sentences/phrases. And the style of writing, it did not agree with me. I developed a headache.
Nov 28, 2011 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read a bit like a puzzle trying to be solved, enjoyable and certainly alot of effort put into the research. I was interested in the day to day life, Rimbo's favourite meal for eg., which was a bit sketchy.
What becomes of Rimbaud when he abandons poetry? It's not pretty AT ALL, as this incredibly well researched and fascinating book proves.
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