Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Illuminations” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


4.39  ·  Rating details ·  8,617 Ratings  ·  244 Reviews
The prose poems of the great French Symbolist, Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891), have acquired enormous prestige among readers everywhere and have been a revolutionary influence on poetry in the twentieth century. They are offered here both in their original texts and in superb English translations by Louise Varèse. Mrs. Varèse first published her versions of Rimbaud’s Illuminat ...more
Paperback, 182 pages
Published January 17th 1957 by New Directions (first published 1875)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Illuminations, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Illuminations

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Oct 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, french
I. Sunday

When homework is done, the inevitable descent from heaven and the visitation of memories, and the session of rhythms invade the dwelling, the head and the world of the spirit.
—A horse scampers off along the suburban turf and the gardens and the wood lots, besieged by the carbonic plague. Somewhere in the world, a wretched melodramatic woman is sighing for unlikely desertions.
Desperadoes are languishing for storms, drunkenness, wounds. Little children are stifling curses along the r
Ahmad Sharabiani
Illuminations, Arthur Rimbaud
Illuminations is an incompleted suite of prose poems by the French poet Arthur Rimbaud, first published partially in La Vogue (fr), a Paris literary review, in May–June 1886. The texts were reprinted in book form in October 1886 by Les publications de La Vogue under the title Les Illuminations proposed by the poet Paul Verlaine, Rimbaud's former lover. In his preface, Verlaine explained that the title was based on the English word illuminations, in the sense of colou
Nov 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, poetry, french
The story behind Arthur Rimbaud's Illuminations is almost as interesting as the poems themselves. The young 20-year old abandoned poetry for a mercantile career in Africa and passed along this collection of prose poems to his former lover Paul Verlaine to submit for publishing. This was not only Rimbaud's farewell to poetry but also to Verlaine who was released from prison for shooting Rimbaud. It's hard to believe that these poems are the work of a 20-year old who lived in the 1870s. The langua ...more
Alexander Akyna
Apr 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Despite my love for Rimbaud's poetry and intelligence (painfully high IQ, if you care about these things), and my knowledge of him (actually, because of it) I'd like to state something: it is virtually impossible to read Rimbaud today in a critical or subjective manner anymore, because his books and life have been so studied and examined by so many that you cannot shake off this feeling of "win-win" towards his poetry.
Let me explain myself: Rimbaud could get away with the most obscure and perso
Jul 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I feel a little about Ashbery translating Rimbaud the way I did about Pavement once closing a show with two Velvet Underground covers. With both, there’s a touching tip of the hat to one’s roots, but also a little bit of giving the game away. Not that either has to worry about the charge of being derivative (if anything, Ashbery’s Rimbaud sounds more like elegant, bittersweet, cast-off mot juste Ashbery than it does the Johnny Rotten of French lit), but the effects that made each stand out from ...more
Jan 22, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, translated
Either Rimbaud is a bit like a popular brand of salty yeast extract or I have no poetic sensibility at all. Oh well.
Aug 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think what's amazing here is that a magnificent American Poet John Ashbery at the age 83 (or something like that) translated the great poetry of Arthur Rimbaud, whose poems were written when he was in his teens. The ultimate teenage rebel icon touched by the grand poet of American letters, whose work is still controversial and has a bite. One wonders what took so long?
The truth is in this book, well, kind of. Rimbaud will always be this cloud that floats above us. It is there to be captured an
Rıdvan Araman
Mezardan bir bakış atıyor yazar. Klasik insan. Bulunduğu ortamla değil de orayla burayla ilgileniyor. Okurken gülümsetmişti burası.

Yeraltı odamın çok yukarısında evler kök salıyor. Sis bürüyor her yanı. Çamur kızıl ya da kara. Koskocaman kent, sonsuz gece!

Daha alçakta lağımlar var. Yanlardaysa yerkürenin yoğunluğu sadece. Ateş kuyuları belki, o masmavi uçurumlar? Belki de o bölgelerde raslaşır aylarla kuyruklu yıldızlar, denizlerle masallar.
Roger Brunyate
The Wild Parade

I first got to know of Rimbaud's astonishing collection of prose-poems through Benjamin Britten's 1939 setting of nine fragments for soprano and string orchestra. It is a brilliant work whose wild energy and scintillating colors are the perfect response to the extraordinary imagery of Rimbaud's writing. But only a fraction of the whole. So when I came upon this beautiful bilingual edition with the original French on the left-hand pages and translations by John Ashbery on the right
David Lentz
Jun 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The mark of an extraordinary writer to me has always had something to do with whether the writer's genre was enhanced by the writer. This is a tall order, I know, but the very best writers change the way that their genre is perceived. Rimbaud's prose poems challenged the traditonal style of the Romantics who wrote before him. He brought a sharp, new incandescence, a flaring literary reality, a breakthrough perception to poetry expressed by his point of view. His stirring soul is seared by his ep ...more
Dec 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First off, it's insane, while you're reading this, to realize this was written by a twenty year old. More if you think this was just about when he gave up on writing.

I'm not sure how far the premise holds that nearly everything in Illuminations is about drug or drink induced experiences. A lot almost certainly came from it, but reading the notes I couldn't always find agreement with that idea. In my opinion, this would take away from Rimbaud's talent instead of add to the impossible grandness o
Mohammad Ali
نمره ی واقعی: دو و نیم

به نظر من مهمترین نکته در مورد این اشعار - حداقل در قالب این ترجمه - غلبه ی شدید ابهام است. گمان می کنم بدون مراجعه به یک شرح، نتوان بهره ی مناسبی از اشعار برد - هم به دلیل ارجاعات فرهنگی و هم به دلیل ساختارها و واژه های غریب رمبو؛ البته اشعار پایانی کمتر دچار این ابهامند

نبود شرح در این ترجمه آشکارا به چشم می خورد. درست است که الهی پانوشت های زیادی برای اشعار نگاشته است اما این پانوشت ها اغلب در مورد چرایی ترجمه های اویند و نه در مورد منظور رمبو

در مورد ترجمه، صرفا از روی ظو
Apr 20, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Rimbaud okurları, genel okur
"Patikalar çetin. Katırtırnağı örtmüş tepecikleri. Yaprak kıpırdamıyor. Nasıl uzak şimdi kuşlar, pınarlar. Dünyanın sonudur varacağın yer, böyle gidersen."
Jun 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't stop reading books alongside Infinite Jest.

Today I checked out Ashbery's new translation of Illuminations from the library and read it in one sitting in my kitchen. I'm glad I did it. It's a beautiful book. I don't know much French, but I will fight anyone who says this is not a good translation.

Really, we should all be singing these poems to each other. We should've fought for the last copies in bookstores and read them all the first night they were published. If we care about poetry an
Maria Carmo
It is not that the book is not well written: the words flow like lava and burn everything in their way... It is the images those words form, that is not appealing in my case... The vision portrayed by the author is far too psychedelic for my taste... Reading these Illuminations, one has the feeling of an openness directly into a sort of unknown chaos: all language becomes little more than a tool through which the author informs his readers about his inner hell...
Beautiful as some sentences are,
Michael Steger
Oct 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Ashbery translating Rimbaud seems such a logical, even natural pairing, that it is surprising it hasn't happened sooner. (Should we believe Ashbery when in the acknowledgments of his translation of Rimbaud's Illuminations, he thanks Norton editor Robert Weil for giving him the idea?) Ashbery has said that he was about 16 when he first encountered Rimbaud’s poetry, which happens to be about the same time that Ashbery was reading closely the poetry of W. H. Auden. In 1956, Auden would select ...more
Arthur Rimbaud tiene un estilo único y una gran tenacidad para expresar sus sentimientos. En esta obra quedan plasmados los miedos y sentimientos del autor. En el poema Ciudad expresa su descontento con la sociedad y el estilo de vida de las personas. El poema más extenso es Infancia, donde relata su infancia solitaria y sus memorias.

Como se puede apreciar, tratan temas diversos pero todos relacionados de algún modo con nuestra vida cotidiana. Considero que esta es su mejor obra, muy por encima
S.D. Johnson
Jun 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
My first whole book in French & even more than I expected. With language like carved crystal, a text infused with rapture, despair, a kind of monkish dereliction.... We are drawn into its supreme egoism, an egoism which doesn't long to dominate the reader, but to simply celebrate (rightfully) its own supremacy of voice, & one I think not only fascinating in its description of other times & lands... but reaching its greatest fulfillment in a nostalgia for things which have never exist ...more
Feb 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Birçok eleştirmene göre "Illuminations" Rimbaud'nun en önemli ve teknik açıdan en karmaşık çalışması. Okumadan önce Rimbaud hakkında biraz araştırma yapmakta fayda var. (Örneğin:

Sembolizmin bu büyük temsilcisinin düzyazı şiirlerinden oluşan "Illuminations"u Fransızcadan okuyabilmek daha iyi olurdu.
Khashayar Mohammadi
Nov 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, french-lit, lgbtq
This book was harshly disappointing. I hardly found a single page worth re-reading or reminiscing about. The style was dynamic and sharp, but on the whole, I felt the content can be best described as "Sophomoric".
Frankly, I do not know why I still bother with poetry. It is not, and apparently never will be a favourable genre of mine. Unjust rating, perhaps; but this very much resembles plain text to me.
Oct 06, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
اصلا به عمق و کنه مطلب این کتاب پی نبردم.
فکر کنم فقط خود بیژن الهی میفهمیده عمق مطلبو.
Jan 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stars seem difficult here (for translation? for R or A or both?), because I read another translation of *Illuminations* some time ago, and remember feeling like I was reading a translation. But Ashbery's Rimbaud is something quite different, more immediate, and perhaps one way of living out "I is someone else" ("Je est un autre.") To reference lines I'll use "R/A" (Resident Assistant? Recycled Author?).

In "Historic Evening" R/A bemoans the Romantic hangover: "'s no longer possible to submit
Aug 12, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Sad, sad, sad. Ashbery is a magnificent poet in his own right, but has wholly butchered this translation of Rimbaud. With the French-and-English bitext herein, it is easy to see that J.A. is lacking in his knowledge of the French language. Everything is denoted far too literally, with Rimbaud's sentence structures adopting the grammatical stylings of an automatically-translated French-to-English text.

Kinder reviewers than I have rendered this edition as "meticulously faithful [...] Ashbery’s ap
Clara Lamarca
Jun 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
I don't know what Rimbaud smoked when he wrote this but it must have been a good brand. I'm not sure I understood half of what he wrote. Seriously. It's something written by someone who had too much to drink. I'm not even sure I like it. I have to think about it, because I thought it was beautiful at times, even magnificent, but quite naive, also quite juvenile.


Je ne sais pas ce qu'Arthur avait fumé quand il a écrit ça mais ça devait être de la bonne ! Je n'ai pas compris la moitié de ce qu'il
Aug 02, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french, poem
شعر فرنگى با آنچه ما شعر مى دانيم فاصله دارد. پس بايد بدون قياس با آنچه ما داريم خوانده شود.
تاكنون چنين وسواس و دقتى در ترجمه نديده بودم. بيژن الهى صيقل زده هر واژه را. توضيحاتى كه در "پانوشتها"ى كتاب آورده، حيرتزده ام كرد. برخى از دلايلش براى گزينش واژه ها، تعمقى كه در معنى دارد و...
تا عاشق نباشى نمى شود. تسلط خيره كننده بيژن الهى بر ادبيات كم نظير است. اين كتاب حتما مى تواند يك مرجع دانشگاهى باشد. تازه قرار بوده كتابى براى شرح اين اشعار هم بيرون بياد. حتما توانسته كاملش كند. اميد كه منتشر شود
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, poetry
My first foray into Rimbaud's poetry. I've been picking at this, delving in and out for almost a month now. I find it hard to properly review poetry, or at least to designate it with a sterile star rating. However, in this collection Rimbaud paints some beautiful pictures. All before the age of 21 too. I need to go through this again.
Apr 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, 2010
We have faith in the poison. We know how to give our whole life every day. – Morning of Drunkenness

Rimbaud has quickly become a favourite. I’ve re-read this book thrice over the last month, finding new things to delight me each time around.

I’m in love with his words. But I’m also fascinated by him. All of his works were written in his mid to late teens. He gave up writing altogether by the age of 21. One of the French enfant terrible, he caused quite the ruckus during his lifetime (which was, in
Ed Smiley
Jul 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
What do you make of an author that hands a work for publication to an ex-lover who shot him?

The imagery is vivid, idiosyncratic hermetic and strangely beautiful, and anticipates surealism.

Ashbery has, as far as I can tell, done an excellent job in translation. The original and translation appear on opposite sides. I don't speak French in any meaningful sense, but there is a an exquisite sound sense in his language that I can pick up in a vague sense in reading (and doubtless mispronouncing) pass
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Paris Spleen
  • Poèmes Saturniens
  • Alcools
  • Maldoror and the Complete Works
  • Artaud Anthology
  • Sonnets to Orpheus
  • Collected Poems and Other Verse
  • Spring and All
  • Aurélia and Other Writings
  • The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara
  • Hymns to the Night
  • The Tennis Court Oath
  • Paroles
  • The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley, 1945-1975
  • Gasoline & The Vestal Lady on Brattle
  • The Maximus Poems
  • The World Doesn't End
  • The Selected Poems
French poet and adventurer, who stopped writing verse at the age of 19, and who 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. R ...more
More about Arthur Rimbaud...

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“True alchemy lies in this formula: ‘Your memory and your senses are but the nourishment of your creative impulse’.” 217 likes
“I shed more tears than God could ever have required.” 184 likes
More quotes…