I’m off to the Isle of Mauritius tomorrow, to that same island Charles Baudelaire visited in 1841. I’m not jumping ship like he did though every time I visit that tiny spot in the Indian Ocean (for work, not pleasure) I can’t help but think of Baudelaire. It’s a long plane ride from my neck of the woods so this time I promise to go through “The Flowers of Evil” up in the sky. Reading Baudelaire so high up always assures some sort of rough landing, but at least you’re sure to come down. (Travelling with Rilke, as I did once, makes you think of terrible angels too close to their home ground.)
I get to change planes in Paris so you never know if I could get a friendly Parisian to read me “Beauty” in the native tongue. And then there is always la Maurice where surely I can find a willing soul to recite a verse or two. How about “Á une dame créole”? Regardless, I’m sure to enjoy the book, again, and with some luck to be back home for Christmas. But you never know about islands, the way they float in those waters.
And just as a kick off here’s a July 5, 1857 review of “Les fleurs du mal” by Gustave Bourdin that appeared in the Figaro:
“[…] Never have such brilliant qualities been so madly wasted. There are times when one has doubts about Monsieur Baudelaire’s mental state; there are other times when one doesn’t have any doubts: most of the time, it is the monotonous and premeditated repetition of the same words, the same thoughts. The odious jostles against the ignoble; the repulsive joins with the foul. Never have so many breasts been bitten and even chewed in so few pages; never has there been such a parade of demons, foetuses, devils, chloroses, cats, and vermin.
This book is a hospital open to all the dementia of the spirit, all of the putridity of the heart; it would be one thing if it was meant to cure them, but they are incurable.
[…] one might understand if the imagination of a twenty-year-old poet had let itself be dragged down to such subjects, but nothing can justify a man of more than thirty for having published a book that gives publicity to similar monstrosities.”
How shall I bear such decadence? Consider this my “Invitation to a Voyage”. See you around Christmas.