For a man to become a poet... he must be in love, or miserable.- Lord Byron, Journal of the Conversations of Lord Byron...the seconds are now strongly, solemnly accentuated, and each one, springing forth out of the clock, says: “I am Life, intolerable, implacable Life!” (45)
This book includes two different works by Baudelaire: Paris Spleen and La Fanfarlo. The latter is the only novella he ever wrote, published before his celebrated Les Fleurs du Mal and it is, in fact, a good work. It tells the story of Simon Cramer and Fanfarlo, a dancer as beautiful as she was stupid (155). The plot is simple but Baudelaire's prose is engaging and amusing. He managed irony with such a style. All in all, I liked it.
However, in my opinion, Paris Spleen is the real gem of this book. It is a remarkable work conformed by prose poems that deal with a wide range of themes. They are like little, printed thoughts created by one restless mind. For me, the stream of consciousness style is the most sublime form of writing. It takes a lot of work and you might end up with either a beautiful piece of literature or something too stupid to even take a look at. I used to use that technique when I was younger and I thought I could write, without even knowing what I was doing. It wasn't until I read Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway or Faulkner's The Sound and The Fury (something I should reread because I never wrote a review for it and now I wouldn't be able to do so), that I knew what this narrative mode could generate: the intriguing yet fearful feeling of being inside someone's head.
This is Baudelaire, a defiant fallen angel with a unique lyrical voice, willing to let it all out, to show humanity the darkest depths of everyone's soul. And for that, he became Sacrilege. Vice. Decadence. And Truth.
There are many memorable themes in these prose poems.
The fear of Time.
“Ah, for us miserable old females, the era of pleasing even the innocent ones is over; and we arouse only horror in the little children we want to love!” (41)
The unbearable beauty of Nature.
And now the depth of the sky troubles me; its limpidity exasperates me. The indifference of the sea, the immutability of the scene repulses me . . . Oh, must one either suffer eternally, or eternally flee the beautiful? Nature, you pitiless enchantress, you always victorious rival, leave me alone! Stop arousing my desires and my pride! The study of the beautiful is a duel, one that ends with the artist crying out in terror before being vanquished. (42)
Another one would light up a cigar next to a cask of gunpowder, just to see, to know, to tempt fate, to force himself to prove he has the energy to play the gambler, to feel the pleasures of anxiety, or for no reason, for a whim, for lack of anything better to do.This is the kind of energy that springs out of boredom and daydreaming; and those in whom it manifests itself so unexpectedly are in general, as I've said, the most indolent and dreamiest of beings. (50)
Finally! I am now allowed to relax in a bath of shadows! But first, a double turn of the lock: I feel as if this extra turn of the key will strengthen my solitude and fortify the barricades that now separate me from the world. (53)
You should always be drunk... In order not to feel the horrible burden of Time that breaks your shoulders and bends you down toward the ground, you must get yourself relentlessly drunk. But drunk on what? On wine, on poetry, or on virtue, whatever you like. But get yourself drunk. (108)
And many others.
When the act of contemplating beauty starts consuming our being, when we think our body can't bear it anymore, poetry emerges personifying a merciful savior to us all. If we are in luck, we will be able to write or purge ourselves through other forms of art. If not... well. I wouldn't want to know.
A person who stands outside gazing through an open window never sees as many things as the one who gazes at a closed one. There is no object more profound, more mysterious, more fecund, more shadowy, more dazzling than a window lit by a candle. What can be seen in broad daylight is always less interesting than what happens behind a window. Within that black or illuminated hole, life lives, life dreams, life suffers. (111)
I am refraining with stoic strength from quoting the whole book (I don't think I am doing a great job, though). It is that beautiful. Baudelaire's awe-inspiring sensitivity creates the most vivid images that will surely take you to his most relaxing dreams. Or his darkest nightmares.
If—for some strange reason—you dislike poetry, I suggest you these prose poems. You will find yourself immersed in dark waters, quietly taking you to nowhere and everywhere, while beholding all sides of Beauty.
Troubled human beings have the ability to see what is not there. To feel what to others is imperceptible. To convert beauty into words. Words that soothe the pain of others. Everyone seems safe. Everyone but the poet, who still sees himself surrounded by his lonely art. His blessing and his curse. His bliss and his sorrow.
...what does an eternity of damnation matter to someone who has discovered an infinity of joy within a single second? (52)
Creating beauty has a price.
The soul should be enough.
Note: Do not be afraid. This translation seems to be flawless.
May 27, 14