Les Fleurs du mal...

by Charles Baudelaire

Paperback, 1966




Paris, E ditions de la Renaissance, 1966


This translation of Baudelaire's magnum opus, perhaps the most powerful and influential book of verse from the 19th century, won the American Book Award for Translation. And the honor was well-deserved, for this is one of Richard Howard's greatest efforts. It's all here: a timeless translation, the complete French text, and Mazur's striking black and white monotypes in one elegant edition.

User reviews

LibraryThing member the_terrible_trivium
The book that convinced me that there might actually be something to this thing called "poetry" after all. Picked it off the library shelf in spite of my prejudices against the form (probably due to nothing more than its admittedly awesome title) and then sat in my bed that evening, put on some Nick Cave and started reading the book. And man, it moved me! I felt it deep in my blood and it was taking me along with it! Whilst previously poetry had always just sat there on the page as I read it, this poetry brought me down into the page and shook me up before deigning to let me go. Then immediately went back to the library and got out some Rimbaud and didn't like it. But man, Baudelaire! There's a dude if there ever was one!… (more)
LibraryThing member poetontheone
The epitome of decadence and one of the greatest volumes of modern poetry. Dark, sometimes gruesome, images of sex and death are presented in beautiful language completely opposite to its subject. It is no wonder why this volume fought constant censorship in France from its initial publication in 1857 all the way up to sixty years ago. If you enjoy poetry, you have to read this. If you don't enjoy poetry, you have to read this. I read the MacGowan translation, which seems to preserve the cadence very well. Perfect for a cold morning with a cup of hot tea.… (more)
LibraryThing member littlepiece
The poetry does not grip me.
LibraryThing member lamotamant
Baudelaire's Les Fleurs is a piqued sensorium; it's the silken petal gliding over flesh, guided by fingers that captivate. It's sensual and Baudelaire's emphasis on modern alienation serves to make it even more so. Whether because the theme of modern alienation speaks so loudly to our day to day or because it's laid so bare by Baudelaire's personal context, I'm not sure. I felt pulled by both during the read and this edition has become a favorite as a result.

Baudelaire speaks to the senses the way Whitman speaks to word lovers, the way a spoken word piece sinks into its audience. His verses have a lasting presence.

I would definitely recommend this edition to first time readers of Baudelaire. I enjoyed reading in French but it was interesting to have the English versions as well to see if there was a trade-off in meaning or overall feel.
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LibraryThing member prufrock21
Seminal work of poetry by the French symbolist poet inspired by the work of Edgar Allen Poe.
LibraryThing member unknown_zoso05
Simply powerful and moving. Baudelaire really knows how to throw a reader in to an abyss. While the poems have a tendency to be grim, the language that he uses makes them lovely in their very own way. I haven't read all the poems in French but some things get lost in translation in the English versions. I recommend reading them in French as well.… (more)
LibraryThing member ironicqueery
I don't know French, so unfortunately am unable to ascertain how true to the original this translation is. Thus, based purely on the English half of this book, I was a bit disappointed that the poetry did not speak to me as much as it once had.

The words and messages seem fairly simplistic. Baudelaire has his moments, but they were way too infrequent. His subject matter was also simplistic, which tended to result in rather course poems, instead of uplifting common language to a higher plain. The Parisian Scenes and Death sections were the highlights and do have some interesting ideas worth exploring.

Overall, this was a book worth reading (and re-reading), but I don't think the potential of some of Baudelaire's ideas were fully realized.
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LibraryThing member jimmydare
I charge, attack, and mount to the assault
As worms attack a corpse within a vault.
LibraryThing member raventudor
One of the few books of poetry that I can stand, and the one I enjoy most.
LibraryThing member hbergander
As to Gustave Flaubert for immorality in « Madame Bovary » a couple of months before, a fine was imposed to Baudelaire, who moreover had to remove some poems, classified by the sentence as obscene, from his book.
LibraryThing member lyingawakeanddreamin
A beautifully written classic.
LibraryThing member georgematt
I don't usually read poetry but I found this collection of 'decadent' poems were both beautiful and nightmarish.
LibraryThing member datrappert
I don't speak French and can't read more than a few words here and there, but as I was reading Howard's non-rhyming translation, I felt for the first time I was seeing into the mind of Baudelaire. Surely it couldn't have been the translator's mind. These poems are full of disturbing images and very dark observations, and they aren't completely clear on a first or even second reading, but the experience of reading them is still riveting, and unlike some poetry, it makes you want to re-read them. And read criticism to better understand them. Perhaps like Confucius's Analects, you need to read more than one translation to really gain a better understanding. I may try that. In the meantime, I highly recommend this edition. I should point out, for those who care, that while it has both the French and English versions of the poems, these are in separate sections of the book--not on facing pages. So if you know some French and want to compare side-by-side, you're out of luck and may want to purchase another edition.… (more)
LibraryThing member noonaut
A rather mediocre translation which does not keep the rhyme of the original.
LibraryThing member Michael.Rimmer
This wasn't the pit of debauchery I'd half expected from its reputation. Which isn't to say there aren't some shocking images ("The Carcass" comes to mind), but times have moved on.

It's an interesting reflection that poems explicitly about necrophilia weren't banned upon publication, but those about, or even hinting at, lesbianism were. A man's pleasures were seemingly more acceptable, however depraved.

It's not all about sex though (ok, a lot of it is!), and Baudelaire also tackles art and artists, love and romance, depression and, well, more depression, the inequalities of society, and the lives of the poor and wretched inhabitants of Paris's deprived urban landscapes away from the bright lights of the cafes and salons of the bourgeoisie.

A slightly unsettling 5/5 🌟
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LibraryThing member Joshette
Simply a classic. Why? Because you open this collection of poems, you wander in the pages of rimes, you find by chance a poem and with no introduction, you feel connected to the pain and the spleen enunciated in the poem where you stopped by.
LibraryThing member jonfaith
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 myself,

I notice with astonishment
The fire of his opal eyes,
Clear beacons glowing, living jewels,
Taking my measure, steadily.

My (initial) amateur assessment is that the translation is to blame for my absence of astonishment. There's no way this could be the same genius who gave us Paris Spleen. Maybe I am but confused. Maybe the threads which shriek decay and ennui were of inadequate weight. Maybe my own disposition suffers from dread and I was left with a meh?

Perhaps I am inadequate. Perhaps I should pursue other editions and translators. I loved the allusion of street sweeps herding their storms. I love the self-deprecation. I just wanted more. Not the Absolute but more--on which to chew.… (more)
LibraryThing member datrappert
** This review is only for the audiobook version from MP3 Audiobook Classics narrated by Douglas Harvey **

My policy is not to give a rating for a book I can't finish. After about a poem and a half, I gave up on this one. I will admit that difficult, translated poetry may not be the most suitable thing to listen to as an audiobook, especially if you aren't reading the text at the same time, but I still feel pretty certain that Douglas Harvey's narration is about as sub-par as it gets. I could have done a better job myself. Avoid, avoid, avoid.… (more)
LibraryThing member kakadoo202
Not my cup of tea
LibraryThing member John.Tidball
This is a completely new translation of this seminal work. Each poem is translated into rhyming verse, preserving both the rhyme scheme and metre of the original. A must-read for all non-francophone poetry lovers.


Local notes

"Clube Geant", Limited edition no. 1270
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