Rimbaud: A Biography Review

Posted on August 6, 2011


I’ve been interested in writing for many years but – I guess because I live in North America – I never heard of Arthur Rimbaud until about a year ago. I found “Rimbaud: A Biography” on a bookshelf of a friend who was a bit of rebel in the sixties, and actually organized the first “BE-IN” here in Vancouver back there in that fabled decade.

So this biography was my introduction to the influential French poet/adventurer. It’s a great story with some great imagery and the character of Rimbaud is so outlandish I’m surprised Monty Python didn’t do him with an outrageous French accent. Rimbaud was the Inspector Clouseau of French literature leaving mayhem in his wake, but yet possessing a clarity of style, a relentless pursuit the unimaginable, and cold blooded ruthlessness that hasn’t been matched (although many have attempted including Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison).

I haven’t read Enid Starkie’s biography but my friend described it to me as ‘motherly’. Perhaps she wanted to be the mother Rimbaud never had (Rimbaud’s mother was a real piece of work). You can’t mother Rimbaud – he’ll your husband, and then stick a knife in his ribs and blackmail him for 100 francs. That’s the strength of Robb’s biography. He knows we can handle the truth. He doesn’t whitewash Rimbaud because he wrote few good poems.

The other thing Robb doesn’t leave out is the latter half of Rimbaud’s life, which he spent engaged in ‘The Great Game’ on the horn of Africa. What an amazing life Rimbaud had – Paris between revolts, tramping across Europe, a reluctant mercenary in Java, and then AFRICA. Rimbaud’s attitudes about himself, the cultures he encounters, his fellow Europeans (‘boozers’), his money-making schemes are a riot.

I don’t know where Robb got all his information but he must have spent years digging it all up and he writes well. I heartily recommend this book.

See it at Amazon.com


Posted in: Life