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

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  68 ratings  ·  7 reviews
This is a biographical study of Arthur Rimbaud's lost years, the years after he turned his back on poetry, fame and France, for a life of wandering and obscurity in the wilds of East Africa.
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...more
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
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.
Eddie Watkins
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
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
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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