Charles Baudelaire, born in Paris in 1821, was one of the greatest nineteenth-century French poets, a key figure in European literature and widely hailed as the father of modernism. With Les Fleurs du Mal, he brought an intimate and sometimes shocking note into poetry through his preoccupation with sin, sex, Satanism, suffering and subversion. He was an inspired art critic and translator, a forerunner of the symbolists, and a progenitor of the prose poem.
The poems of The Flowers of Evil were written in Paris at a time of revolution and accelerating change — the beginning of mass culture, the rise of consumerism and the middle-class, the radical redevelopment of the city by Haussmann — and they provide many parallels with the malaise and uncertainties of contemporary capitalist societies. Here we find poems about love (and love-hate), birds and beasts, Paris scenes and street people; about spiritual revolt, wine, death, travel and far-away places. The poet's voice is by turns ironical, angry and compassionate, his words charged with anguish, desire and rapture. Jan Owen's masterly translation captures all of this in a selection that includes many of Baudelaire's best known poems — including those banned from 1857 edition — as well as some less familiar ones, with the volume leading up to his great long poem, 'The Voyage', and finishing with the much-loved sonnet 'Meditation'.
978 1908376 40 4 pbk
978 1908376 41 1 hbk
978 1908376 42 8 ebk
Les Fleurs du Mal was first published in Paris in 1857
This translation, in bilingual edition, published 15 June 2015
Published June 2015