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Les Fleurs du Mal

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  56,174 ratings  ·  1,664 reviews
Charles Baudelaire's 1857 masterwork was scandalous in its day for its portrayals of sex, same-sex love, death, the corrupting and oppressive power of the modern city and lost innocence, Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil) remains powerful and relevant for our time.

In Spleen et idéal," Baudelaire dramatizes the erotic cycle of ecstacy and anguish--of sexual and romanti
Paperback, 365 pages
Published October 1st 1983 by David R. Godine Publisher (first published 1857)
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John Tidball If you want to read the most complete and most recent version of Les Fleurs du Mal, I suggest you read my translations which I have published side by …moreIf you want to read the most complete and most recent version of Les Fleurs du Mal, I suggest you read my translations which I have published side by side with the original French poems. You need look no further.

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Jan 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Francophiles and poetry lovers
Recommended to Kelly by: My European history teacher
After reading Baudelaire, I suddenly find myself wanting to smoke cigarettes and say very cynical things while donning a trendy haircut. Plus, if I didn't read Baudelaire, how could I possibly carry on conversations with pretentious art students?

In all seriousness, though, I wish my French was better, so that I could read it in its intended language. I'm sure it looses something in the translation... but it's still great stuff nonetheless.

And with a title like "Flowers of Evil," how can you go
It is the only book of poetry that has had such a lasting effect on me. It is a monument, unlike any other.
When I immerse myself in it, I feel both the sensations of a descent into catacombs and those of a mystical elevation. Then, weeks later, still echo in my ears in deep echoes the dizzying verses of "Harmonie du Soir":
«Valse mélancolique et langoureux vertige !
Le soleil s'est noyé dans son sang qui se fige.»
This poem will always make me shiver with indescribable and exhilarating ecstasy.

Sep 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: france, poetry
I read Les Fleurs du Mal many years back, but it is still within me. Just a few words about this beautiful, sometimes nightmarish, masterpiece. What do you expect to feel when reading Charles Baudelaire? Nothing, I expect, falsely innocent, but superior free-flowing dream sequences of surrealism. I loved to read of prophetic dreams with occasional moments of grace, where the fallen world seems to transform itself into an eternally beautiful moment. As always with poetry we have our preferences, ...more
Mar 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Here's a recent essay on Baudelaire from the trusty, always-interesting online mag The Millions:

So as to try to follow that, I've got to disclose a bit of an embarrassment. Baudelaire was, for me, the kind of poet only certain kinds of people liked. By this I don't mean Francophiles or the merely pretentious but there was something that set a devotee of C.B. apart from your average earnest, quavering, verbose, nervous poet or poetry fanboy.

It's hard to
MJ Nicholls
Superlative. Thrilling. Sensual. Naughty. Macabre. Joyous. Liberating. Essential. Poetry for the reluctant poetry reader, i.e. me. (A little distracted here listening to Belle & Sebastian’s Write About Love which I finally acquired. Hence the choppiness). Great translation. Don’t care about reading in the original or what is lost in translation. Each translation adds to or improves the previous and this one reads pretty swell to me. Where do I go from here? Verlaine? Rimbaud? Mallarmé? Pam Ayres ...more
Dec 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Receuillement/ Blues

Blues, be cool, keep quiet, you mutha,
Intruder, second-story man, you enter with dusk,
It descends. It's here, an atmosphere
Surrounds the town. Builds some up, knocks me down.
Meanwhile the rabble ruled by body
Pleasures, thankless beasts overburdened
Build toward a bundle of remorse
In drugged dances. Blues, take my hand,
Come from them, come here. Look behind me
At the defunct years, at the balconies
Of heaven; in tattered copes, rise out
Of the waters of Regret. The sun sleeps
Olivier Delaye
Sep 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Les Fleurs du Mal or The Flowers of Evil or, let’s extrapolate here, The Beauty of Evil is a masterpiece of French literature which should have pride of place in any bookcase worth its name, right between Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Divine Comedy. For indeed the beauty of evil, what with its mephitic yet oh so alluring aroma, is exactly what this book is about—a collection of poems and elegies reflecting Baudelaire’s views on our poor human condition stemming mainly from our doomed lives ...more
Vit Babenco
Jul 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Genesis
Ever since the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge was eaten any lore became an attribute of evil. So to read books in order to wide one’s horizons is just to sign a pact with the devil.
“Pillowed on evil, Satan Trismegist
Ceaselessly cradles our enchanted mind,
The flawless metal of our will
Jon Nakapalau
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Truly a unique an haunting voice - a visionary poet who forces you to question all that you find comforting - immersion of the self into the torrent of humanity.
Dear Charles,

I’m flattered to be your muse, I really am. I mean, how many women can say they’ve inspired a genius to write poems about them, poems that will be read and loved hundreds of years hence? You have immortalized me in perfect rhymes, and thanks to you I shall always be remembered as a flower of evil. I am your dark lady, your giantess, your pussy cat, your vampire, your lovely corpse, and what not. But while we’re waiting for eternity, could you please take out the trash and fix that w
Jul 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite poets of all time.

Baudelaire emphasized above all the disassociated character of modern experience: the sense that alienation is an inevitable part of our modern world. In his prose, this complexity is expressed via harshness and shifts of mood.

The constant emphasis on beauty and innocence, even alongside the seamier aspects of humanity, reinforce an existentialist ideal that rejects morality and embraces transgression. Objects, sensations, and experiences often clash, implici
Feb 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetshere
I hate movement for it displaces lines, And never do I weep and never do I laugh.
1.28.2021 Update:

It was a cosmic day and I found myself mute. I can say that despite emerging from some peril, verse translation remains crucial. I can't speak for other editions, or other translations, but I was urgently shaken by this. It was welcomed despite my tacit brush with the Terminal.

When my eyes, to this cat I love
Drawn as by a magnet's force,
Turn tamely back upon that appeal,
And when I look within my
Eldonfoil TH*E Whatever Champion
This is a step towards possession.

Certainly the possession does not last the entire way through, but even in the less interesting or repetitive poems there are some jarring lines, amplified by a soul in Heat.

Like any elevated piece of literature, Flowers of Evil consumed me to such an extent that at times I forgot I was reading words on a page, its intensity moving my mind into some unknown zone where images, thoughts, and recollections screamed by, colliding with each other. So, too, did I fee
How to describe this volume of poetry? Avant-garde, modernistic, innovative, original? Yes, all of those, and to use a modern slang word, edgy. So edgy in fact, for mid 19th century France, that Napoleon III's government prosecuted him for "an insult to public decency". Six of the poems were banned until 1949. Don't worry; by today's standards they are not so alarming. ...more
translated by Edna St. Vincent Millay & George Dillon

It's outrageous that this wonderful translation is out of print.
After looking at many versions (including Richard Howard, James McGowan, and Cyril Scott who was my second favourite) this was the only one with truly good poems which replicated the original structures and had the glittering night-magic of Baudelaire's sensual, sinister, romantic, gothic wonderland. Which would of course have something to do with one of the translators herself b
Apr 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2016, poetry
As I read this I simply felt as if I understood Baudelaire completely, and as if he understood me.
Then I realized my body craved for a cigarette and was ready to throw a cynical, sarcastic comment.
The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire seriously makes me regret not knowing a single word of French. least with this 400+ pages of Chinese translation, we seem to be able to get most if not all of Baudelaire's works in one go:

So I end up only able to read both the Chinese and English translation of these jewel-like pieces of artwork.



The Possessed One

The sun is enveloped in
May 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Was this the most amazing book of poetry I've ever read? No, though I would have a difficult time nailing down exactly which one is (though Mark Valentine's At Dusk would be a strong contendor). Is it among the better books of poetry I've read, absolutely. It's easy to see why people both revere(d) and revile(d) Baudelaire. Take this line, for instance, from "Hymn to Beauty":

So to her heart she ravens back the spume of her loathing . . .

I look at this as a near-perfect sentence. The use of "rave
Jovana Autumn
Poetry is hard to review because most of the time nowadays, it comes down to personal preference. However, one can say a few things about this particular collection that are important for the overall development of poetry without liking a single poem in this collection.
On that note, here are some of the changes brought by this poetry collection:

a) This was one of the first conceptual poetry collections , one where the poems were interconnected by the theme of the collection and continuing on
I read a majority of the poems in French, which made the experience more beautiful. Each word is like a unique brushstroke of color on a grand canvas, applied with varying degrees of pressure, and each deeply and sensually hued. Baudelaire’s poetry paints gorgeous images of emotion, desire, and wanting that remain with you. Reading Les fleurs was a deeply personal and stirring experience for me. I have many favorites and could provide analyses on a dozen poems or more, but for the sake of length ...more
Aug 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, poetry, french
Hymn to Beauty

O Beauty! dost thou generate from Heaven or from Hell?
Within thy glance, so diabolic and divine,
Confusedly both wickedness and goodness dwell,
And hence one might compare thee unto sparkling wine.

Thy look containeth both the dawn and sunset stars,
Thy perfumes, as upon a sultry night exhale,
Thy kiss a philter, and thy mouth a Grecian vase,
That renders heroes cowardly and infants hale.

Yea, art thou from the planets, or the fiery womb?
The demon follows in thy train, with magic fraught,
Jun 13, 2007 rated it liked it
Death, decay, death, WOE, death, despair, death, afternoon tea!, death, death, some more WOE... That's the Eddie Izzard version of this collection.

Didn't finish all of them. I tried reading both the English and the French of every poem, so maybe that had something to do with it. This guy also gives Poe a run for his money in depressing. He translated Poe into French and made the imagery /more/ morose, if you can imagine. The poems I read I loved, though it does get a bit repetitive after awhile.
Beautifully debauched and morbid,
thank you for inspiring the symbolists and decadents.

Having read a few works by authors who were influenced by this, having seen works of art and illustrations either inspired or based on this, having random lines always swirling and being recited in my head, I thought it was time to revisit this...

Oh the joy I felt reading this again.

Favorite poems:
La Muse malade
La Muse vénale
La Beauté
Les Bijoux
Parfum exotique
Une Charogne
Le Vampire
À Celle qui e
Lynn Beyrouthy
Apr 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
When it comes to the most beautiful literature in the world, I radically believe in the imperial prominence of Nineteenth century French literature.
Charles Baudelaire is one of the poets that tremendously alimented this conviction.

Originally entitled "Les Lesbiennes" and brazenly delineating sexuality and libidinous desires, the poems which Baudelaire composed in the decade of 1840-1850 were continuously censored until 1857, when his work was published with the title "Les Fleurs du Mal".

The be
Jan 20, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 Not going to lie. I'm not an avid reader of poetry, nor does it impress me much, I'm a full descriptions kind of girl. But I wanted to try and here I am. Way too much negativity all around, but hey! Some poems stuck with me for real. So I'll call it a challenge completed.

Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge 2019: A book out of your comfort zone.

Lo que nadie conoce, persiguiendo lo nuevo.

¿Por que los autores mas odiados o no valorados en su época son los mejor reconocidos en la actualida
As Edna St.Vincent Millay wrote in the Preface to her collaborative translation with another poet (and her lover at the time) George Dillon, “The title Les Fleurs du Mal is not adequately translated as Flowers of Evil. These poems are flowers of doubt, flowers of torture, flowers of grief, flowers of blasphemy, flowers of weakness, flowers of disgust; …” This is not a comfortable journey, starting with his first poem addressed to the reader as “you — hypocrite Reader — my double — my brother!” ( ...more
Aug 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Terence by: New Book shelf at library
Shelves: poetry
Flowers of Evil was an entirely serendipitous impulse check-out from my local library. I can only imagine that what caught my eye was the title - Flowers of Evil - who could resist? So I pulled it from the shelf, opened it up at random, read a few verses, and said to myself "This isn't bad."

Not only was it "not bad" but it was extraordinarily good; good enough that Baudelaire has joined the list of authors I'll pay money for.

It's random events like finding authors whose work "speaks to me" in so
Feb 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
I was so taken by this book that I memorized whole passages to repeat if only to myself at various times of the day. As I recall, my friends began to think I was mentally ill. Nevertheless, the power of this book was immense on my life as a college junior, I think, and it caused me to fall in love with everything that was French, cynical and wearing a beret, much like a Parisian waiter on his day off. I actually picked this book up because I loved the name, but it also began a long term love aff ...more
James Tingle

Most people here seem to love this book and although Baudelaire clearly had a talent, only a few of these poems really appealed to me much. I think I initially got drawn to the book because of it's magnificent title and had high hopes for it because of that. I didn't mind the depressing nature of a lot of the poems or some of the surreal ones but did find a lot of them melded together after a while and getting to the end of the book became some sort of endurance feat I wish I'd given up on to be
Steven Godin
Oct 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, france
One of the greatest books of poetry ever written.
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Charles Pierre Baudelaire was a 19th century French poet, translator, and literary and art critic whose reputation rests primarily on Les Fleurs du Mal; (1857; The Flowers of Evil) which was perhaps the most important and influential poetry collection published in Europe in the 19th century. Similarly, his Petits poèmes en prose (1868; "Little Prose Poems") was the most successful and innovative e ...more

Articles featuring this book

Every month is a good month to appreciate poetry, but in April it's an official thing. Founded in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets,...
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“My heart is lost; the beasts have eaten it.” 272 likes
“I love to watch the fine mist of the night come on,
The windows and the stars illumined, one by one,
The rivers of dark smoke pour upward lazily,
And the moon rise and turn them silver. I shall see
The springs, the summers, and the autumns slowly pass;
And when old Winter puts his blank face to the glass,
I shall close all my shutters, pull the curtains tight,
And build me stately palaces by candlelight.”
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