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Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel
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Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  327 ratings  ·  57 reviews
The distinguished biographer, novelist, and memoirist Edmund White brings his literary mastery to a new biography of Arthur Rimbaud.

Poet and prodigy Arthur Rimbaud led a life that was startlingly short, but just as dramatically eventful and accomplished. Even today, over a century after his death in 1891, his visionary poetry has continued to influence everyone from Jim Mo
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Kindle Edition
Published (first published October 9th 2008)
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Tosh
Edmund White comes through again. A very informative and entertaining short biography on Arthur Rimbaud. Through a confession of sort in the first part of the book, White has a personal interest in the relationship between Rimbaud and the poet Paul Verlaine. In other words, what a couple! But a relationship that really had an affect on contemporary literature.

Rimbaud is really the first punk rock figure. A total asshole who wrote like an angel. His beauty and his sometimes ugliness really added
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Corey Ryan
"In order to become a true poet, Rimbaud wrote, the writer must turn himself into a seer. 'The poet becomes a seer through a long, immense and carefully reasoned disordering of all the senses.' The poet must subject himself to a self-instigated torture; he must undergo all the agonies of love, suffering and madness. 'He needs all his faith, all his superhuman force, and he will become the great sick man, the great criminal, the great cursed sinner-and the supreme Wise Man, since he'll have reach ...more
Al Bità
The French homosexual poet Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891) had a significant influence on major early 20th-c writers, musicians and artists, despite the fact that his own writing covers at most the five year period from when he was 16 to 21 years of age (at which time he swore off poetry forever). His influence on the Symbolists, Dadaists and Surrealists, who took his cold, cruel, often deliberately ugly descriptions of reality as he saw it, was extensive. It was used, perhaps, to express and give cr ...more
James
Rimbaud, like Mozart, was one of the great artistic freaks of nature. Surely he was a stubborn, insolent, depressed soul, but his massive egotism and restlessness also were the catalysts that drove him to see and think like few others have. For anyone sensitive to life and its brevity, to its mysteries and paradoxes, this genius boy is a revelation.

I read Starkie’s famous bio of Rimbaud years ago and learned a lot about the later years, after Rimbaud abandoned poetry and turned towards business
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~riaria~
The first biographical book I have ever read about my teenage obsession/idol, Arthur Rimbaud. I still think he is a fascinating figure and an amazing poet. If you are interested in learning more about his short and turbulent life, his relationship with Verlaine or his mother and other interesting trivia, I highly recommend this book by Edmund White.

White really touched me, when he said that he used to sneak out in the night to read Rimbaud's poetry in the bathroom of his strict all-boys boardin
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Michael Soros
Strictly speaking this is not a biography of Rimbaud nor does White claim it to be. In fact he recommends the best biographies in English and French in his bibliography. He also states clearly that he is indebted for his research to Graham Robb's biography. He makes no claim to original research or insights but he does put a few of Enid Starkie's wilder claims to bed as being nothing but wild speculation or a fruit of whatever psychological theory happened to be in vogue at the time.

It is a simp
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M.
Despite being perpetually obsessed with French poetry, the little that I've read of Rimbaud has never done much for me--though, of course, I can historically recognize his importance, and I'm fascinated by Bataille's mention of him (in either Inner Experience or Guilty, I can't remember which right now, somewhere in the somme atheologique). But, his ideas on the poet as a seer & disorienting the senses to achieve this sense of the impossible has always appealed to me. I find the character pa ...more
Marsha
Mr. White has undertaken the task of dissecting and probing the elusive nature of Arthur Rimbaud, a progenitor of Surrealism and one of the influences behind the Decadent era. The book is thorough, exhaustive and spares no punches about its subject. Bratty, willful, cruel, needy, offensive, churlish, lazy and contradictory, Rimbaud affected everyone who met him—usually in the negative. He alienated his friends, offended strangers and engaged in a torrid affair with Paul Verlaine, the violent, mo ...more
Allen Levine
Usually books I read get 3-4 stars. This is the result of picking books with subject matter that interests me, or books written by authors I enjoy reading. Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel is no exception. In this case, however, I didn't choose the book because I am a fan of Rimbaud - who, by all accounts wasn't a person you'd want to spend a lot of time with - or his poetry - in fact, I will confess to never having read any of his work. I picked up the book because the biographer, Edmund Whi ...more
Jody Mena
What a magnificent character Arthur Rimbaud must have been! He lived a strange, decadent, chaotic and lamentably short life. Like so many misunderstood poets, ahead of its time. Like a blazing star, he burned so brightly that he burned himself out. But in his short 37 years, he may have lived more than most who live twice as long. He was truly and s[spectacularly larger-than-life, yet at the same time, he is exceedingly, almost exaggeratedly human in his vices and other failings of character. Th ...more
Bianca
Arthur Rimbaud is probably one of the most fascinating people, to me, of all time. Everything about his life intrigues me, and his relationship with Paul Verlaine was both a thing of beauty and a treacherous, unhealthy addiction that neither of them could seem to break. I feel connected to Rimbaud through that typical, sad isolation; the kind only met when someone is too much like who they are idolizing but probably too unbelievable for anyone else to take notice.

Singlehandedly, Rimbaud pretty
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Branden William
A well-written glimpse into the world of a true literary genius, from the perspective of a homosexual author, Edmund White. Exerting a strong influence on surrealism, as one of the most important poets of his time, whose 'power of incantation' Andre Breton found overwhelming-- and who would always remain a key source in the development of surrealist thought-- Rimbaud quickly felt that poetry must break with tradition and "usher in a new era of human history." He felt that all poetry was written ...more
david-baptiste
I've been reading this at the bookstore as it just arrived--and , before i go further, should point out that it is written specifically for the Atlas series, whcih do not purport to be the kind of exhaustive bios--such as author Edmund White has written of Genet, for example--that others have penned regarding Rimbaud. (A recent french bio is over 1,200 pages; the best English language bio is Graham Robb's, which is over 500)--
so on that count, word count, don't expect the same kind of detail tha
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Lewis Manalo
Turning thirty-one is depressing because if you haven't become a professional athlete by that age, you know it's never going to happen. Similar could be said of turning nineteen: if you haven't become Arthur Rimbaud by that age, then it's never going to happen.

Edmund White's slim biography is pure entertainment with generous helpings of research and a dash of memoir. Rimbaud's biography is the stuff of literary legend: enfant terrible seducing an older poet, getting shot by said poet, walking aw
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Josh
This was an easy read, other than White's impressive vocabulary making me look up a word every few pages. I wanted to learn the scandal and the genius of Rimbaud, whose work I have never read. I enjoyed White's A Boy's Own Story so I sought out this biography. White steers clear, at least in these two books, of emotionality. His fiction does not suffer much for this; it's never less than compelling (though I think it would be unmatched if White could convey feeling as well as a Toni Morrison). T ...more
lovestory-ghoststory
Very good general overview of Rimbaud's life. It was a short, compelling read and the author, rather than in-text citations, gives a list of recommended sources at the back. There was a great bit of focus on the relationship with Verlaine, and I would have preferred more excerpts from actual letters and other writings. It's good for what it is, but not a very scholarly or anecdotal book.
AC
This is an excellent book for what it is -- a very brief and readable biography of this remarkable figure, focused largely on his sick relationship with Verlaine; but also an intelligent meditation on Rimbaud's poetics, albeit in brief.

White thinks that Enid Starkie's biography is excellent and readable and almost novelistic -- but questions its accuracy. As one example, he shows how Starkie first infers the notorious gang-rape from one of Rimbaud's poems (there is no hard evidence for it), and
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Scot
I have long been fascinated by Rimbaud and all I knew seem to be scandalous heresay about his life even more than 100 years after his death and so when I saw this biography reviewed a couple years back I added it to my "to read" pile and finally got around to it. I think Edmund White lived vicariously through Rimbaud and so the focus was more on his exploration of homosexuality and his bizarre relationship with the poet Verlaine than the mystical/occult side of his poetry. Additionally, as with ...more
Nicole
A wonderful biography of a truly fascinating man. If you're looking for an entry point into the poetry of Rimbaud (or are just interested in reading about an amazing life), this is an excellent place to start. Though not a definitive biography, it's short and sweet, and will allow you to better understand Rimbaud's work.

"Je est un autre."
Jenn
If you are interested in finding out what really made Arthur Rimbaud tick, start with this book by Edmund White. I didn't really know enough before picking this book up to have any misconceptions, but if you did, this will set you straight.(no pun intended)

From a 21st century American's perspective, AR and Paul Verlaine's story is definitely bizarre. Frequent journeys into gutters both domestic and foreign, abusive rampages and family members who funded said journeys and an absolute commitment t
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Karen Renee Collins
Through no fault of the author, you are left wanting more. Rimbaud's bizarre short life has been preserved in a handful of letters, "The Drunken Boat", "Illuminations", "A Season in Hell", and a few additional scattered works. Much of his life is documented through the warped veil of Verlaine's eyes. Rimbuad's decision to completely change his life after his crazy, tumultuous affair with poetry (and Verlaine) is difficult to comprehend. From an obnoxious youth who managed to fit "merde" into eve ...more
Andy Bird
Not only one of the best biographies I've read it's one of the best books I've read. Compact & readable, it accomplishes a lot in so few pages. I highly highly recommend it. A troubled, fascinating life told well.
Amber
Short, sweet, informative. While it's certainly not the most exhaustive biography, it's just enough to get one acquainted. I'm grateful to Edmund White for his contribution.
William
A short work (less than 200 pages) that just touches upon the greatest moments on the life of Rimbaud, from the early "deplorable behavior" of his late teen years to his different un-poetic persona (cut short by his death at the age of 37). Not enough text to fully satisfy one's curiosity about this amazing personality, but at least an introduction that makes one want to read more (such as the 1000+ pages of Lefrere's biography published in 2001). The author, White, has a tendency to let some of ...more
Chris
Very engaging, relatively short, new biography of this very odd character--Rimbaud. I suspect more people find his life an interesting read rather than his poetry. I suppose that would include me...though his poetry--the few of his poems that I get anything from--is at time deeply affecting. At any rate, this biography seems well-researched and honest--something hard to come by in writing about Rimbaud's reckless and unusual life. But again, I suppose it is his unusual life that makes a Rimbaud ...more
Sean Carman
This seems like the best introduction you could find to Rimbaud's life and work. White's biography moves at a brisk pace, describing Rimbaud's visionary approach to poetry and his intolerable personification of the Romantic artistic ideal -- it sounds great to achieve a "complete disordering of the senses" until you actually try it in your real life. Verlaine comes across as pathetic, Rimbaud as impossible. Maybe they were truly meant for each other. Naturally, I ordered the Modern Library paper ...more
Lauren
Is it better to burn out or fade away? I didn't realize that Rimbaud lived beyond the life of the bohemian poet. I assumed he died some romantic, consumptive death. Or committed suicide. Clearly, I had no idea. Somehow, I expected fireworks.

Edmund White's biography is an illuminating look at the life of this wildly influential poet who turned away from his poetry after four incendiary years of writing. The strange twist of his success is as compelling as the story of his youth.
Jean
Edmund White is a brilliant, modern stylist. All his work is both easy to read and elegant. This one, about the French poet Rimbaud, is short but a distillation of the essence of Rimbaud, leaving you wanting more.
Like everything Edmund White writes, there is a clear-eyed honesty about this. I really like ihe way he refuses to romanticise Rimbaud but also shows the man who spent a huge amount of his life at home with his mother.
blake
"Even the slightly mad and very bohemian Nouveau prudently had referred to Rimbaud not by name but simply as "Thing" which later became a half-affectionate, half-derogatory reference in gay slang in English ("Miss Thing!")

this quot,e although not the highest example of White's prose in this biographical sketch, is a glimpse at the sober props of Rimbaud throughout the book. Wonderful read for literature-queer-rebel lovers.
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Edmund White's novels include Fanny: A Fiction, A Boy's Own Story, The Farewell Symphony, and A Married Man. He is also the author of a biography of Jean Genet, a study of Marcel Proust, The Flâneur: A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris, and, most recently, his memoir, My Lives. Having lived in Paris for many years, he is now a New Yorker and teaches at Princeton University. He was also a membe ...more
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