Baudelaire: The Life of Charles Baudelaire

Joanna Richardson, Author
Joanna Richardson, Author St. Martin's Press $35 (602p) ISBN 978-0-312-11476-3
Reviewed on: 10/31/1994
Release date: 11/01/1994
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French symbolist poet Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) posed as a dandy and bohemian to protect himself against the world, writes Richardson in this scholarly yet dramatic biography. Also the biographer of Verlaine, Stendahl and Victor Hugo, she regards Baudelaire as ``among the most profoundly Catholic of poets,'' his Fleurs du mal not so much about evil as a wrestling with sin and repentance, the war between flesh and spirit. The poet's ambivalent devotion to his manipulative mother, Caroline Defayis Aupick, his idol and companion-a relationship, according to the author, fraught with emotional blackmail and jealousy-led to his failure to commit himself wholly to any other woman. Amid his isolation, deep depressions and sense of abandonment, he sublimated love into a sensuous appetite for beauty, celebrating both the lost innocence of childhood and the daily heroism of ordinary people in the modern metropolis. Richardson's searching, incandescent portrait clarifies both the life and the art. Photos. (Nov.)
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