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Selected Poems from Les Fleurs du Mal

by Charles Baudelaire

Bilingual English / French edition

Translated by Jan Owen
Introduced by Rosemary Lloyd

Part of our Arc Classics: New Translations of Great Poets of the Past series edited by Jean Boase-Beier

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'.

Jan Owen's Baudelaire brings the French conjuror closer to me than any version I'd ever read. I admire her versions deeply.

Les Murray

The music of Jan Owen's Flowers of Evil fills me with admiration: she is wondrously tuned to Baudelaire's rhythms and cadences, to the occasional harshness and urban, spleenful disgust, the melancholia and tenderness. With extraordinary empathy and prosodic skill, Jan Owen has given voice in contemporary English to the great witness of urban malaise and soul sickness.

Marina Warner

978 1908376 40 4 pbk
978 1908376 41 1 hbk
978 1908376 42 8 ebk

192 pp

Les Fleurs du Mal was first published in Paris in 1857

This translation, in bilingual edition, published 15 June 2015
Published June 2015

» About Charles Baudelaire