Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire

About Charles Baudelaire

Charles-Pierre Baudelaire (April 9, 1821 - August 31, 1867) was a poet, writer, literary critic, art critic, French journalist, philosopher, aphorist, essayist and translator. He is considered one of the most important poets of the 19th century, a key exponent of symbolism, an affiliate of Parnassianism and a great innovator of the lyric genre, as well as a forerunner of decadentism. The Flowers of Evil (Les Fleurs du Mal), his major work, is considered one of the classics of French and world literature. Baudelaire's opus magnum was the collection The Flowers of Evil of 1857 (the first version with only 18 poems was published in 1855 by the Revue des Deux Mondes): the title of this work fully sums up the idea of beauty proper to the french poet. Evil, like good, has its flowers, its beauties. However, evil is more attractive and more captivating. This work evokes the imaginary 'journey', typical of Baudelaire's conception of life. In fact, it starts from the anguish of living (Spleen), which is opposed on the one hand by a divine ideal, made up of natural correspondences, of love and beauty, which can only be reached through ideal beauty. On the other hand we have death, another source of salvation. We get there through evil, rebellion against everything that surrounds us, but above all against God, with the use of drugs (hashish and tobacco together) and alcohol, which represent the poet's attempt to find refuge, discovering however that they are capable to give only a brief illusion of freedom (Enivrez-Vous - 'Get drunk. Of wine, of poetry, of freedom, of whatever you want, but get drunk', writes in the Spleen of Paris, the next short collection of prose that follows the Fleurs). The definitive posthumous edition (1868) is the longest and presents the preface To the reader and many expunged poems, for a total of 126 poems, to which various appendices were later added such as the 6 poems censored by the court.
The thought, production and life of Baudelaire influenced many subsequent authors (first of all the cursed poets such as Verlaine, Mallarmé and Rimbaud, but also Marcel Proust, Edmund Wilson, as well as, in particular, Paul Valéry, also belonging to literary currents and lived in different historical periods, and is still considered today not only as one of the forerunners of decadent literature, but also of poetry and philosophy towards society, the art, of the essence of relationships between human beings, of emotion, of love and of life that he himself had defined as Modernism. The work of Baudelaire, who sensed the irreversible crisis of the society of his time, is varied and complex. His poetry, centered on the musical perfection of style (he himself called it Mathematical), paved the way for symbolism and experimentalism, which will have strong repercussions in twentieth-century poetry. His writings as a critic and as a scholar of aesthetic problems were also of particular importance, which converged and consolidated in a later work. Baudelaire did not belong to any school, he was independent, although his poetry derives directly from romanticism (contemplation of the object according to the aesthetics expounded by Edmund Burke of the Beautiful and the Sublime), from the Gothic, from the first accursed French of the Middle Ages, François Villon , from Parnassianism and symbolism, and was contemporary with realism and naturalism; Dantesque echoes are also found in him, transported into a Fallen Age.
Cursed and provocative poet in mystification. So much for the cliché, but Again ? 'Anywhere out of the world'. Would he have written only that…? His way of assigning to poetry the task of plunging into the depths of the Unknown (rather than the Infinite, but that is still being discussed) to extract something new from it. A thinker first of all ? Everything for thought, nothing for aesthetics? His loneliness cannot understand without a reference to the romantic evil of the higher man. His dandyism takes root in the cult of difference. He gets drunk on humiliation and not humility. His pride, his loneliness sustain him in his savage hatred against men. A pride based on the presentiment of a high survival literary. What does it matter to him not to be loved since he will be one of those people remembers, at least he is convinced of it. He 'knows' that one day the effects of his counter-literature, this poetry of intimacy that he interposes between himself and the public, fade away to let his profound genius flourish in readers.
Although he had not yet published any work, already in 1843 Baudelaire was known in Parisian literary circles as a dandy addicted to expenses and luxuries that he often could not even afford, surrounding himself with works of art and books; the generous economic expenditures of his standard of living quickly affected half of his father's assets forcing his mother, on the advice of her stepfather, to interdict the young man and entrust his assets to a notary. In this period he joined the Club des Hashischins, a circle of writers and intellectuals dedicated to the exploration of the experiences and hallucinations produced by drugs (first of all hashish), who often met at the Hôtel de Lauzun; the group included renowned personalities, in addition to Baudelaire, such as Jacques-Joseph Moreau, Théophile Gautier, Gérard de Nerval, Honoré de Balzac, Eugène Delacroix and Alexandre Dumas. Also in these years he met Balzac and continued to produce some of the compositions of The Flowers of Evil. The first publication dates back to 1845, and due to the critical review of the Salon of 1845, Baudelaire's work earned a lot of attention in the artistic field, for the audacity of the ideas presented and for the competence demonstrated by the author. However, this first personal success was contrasted by his lifestyle: increasingly pressed by debts, doubtful about his future, alone and with a precarious psychological condition, Baudelaire attempted suicide for the first time in May. He was only slightly injured and overcame the physical trauma with a relatively short recovery. Her mother, despite the fact that her son was experiencing an evidently disastrous period, never went to visit him, ignoring his requests, probably by order of Aupick. On June 30, 1845, he again attempted suicide by stabbing himself, but survived. A little earlier he had written a farewell letter to Jeanne Duval.
In 1846 Baudelaire took charge of the Salon again, collaborating with magazines and newspapers through articles, essays and art criticism. His fame continues to grow, above all because in this work he advocates Romanticism and Delacroix, also rediscovering the opera works of David.
His important debut as a poet with the work To A Creole Lady also dates back to the same year, while the following year he will publish his only short story, entitled La Fanfarlo, in which we can also glimpse some sketches from a theatrical work. In 1848 he took part in the Parisian revolutionary uprisings and he too climbed the insurrectionist barricades, shouting 'We have to go and shoot General Aupick' (that is, his stepfather), even though his political position was not rooted and defended with conviction, but driven by the enthusiasm of the moment and from the historical-social situation in Paris. His first biographer and friend, Charles Asselineau, maintains that 'Baudelaire loved the revolution, but more as an artist than as a citizen'. However, Baudelaire will see the possibility of a victory and a 'liberation' fade from the bloody days following the protests, from the proclamation of the Second French Republic and from the consequent establishment of the Bonapartist regime of the future Napoleon III. This defeat will leave a very deep wound in the soul of Baudelaire, who abandons socialist ideas and politics (although the first essay on Pierre Dupont dates back to 1851, in which he denounces the squalid conditions of the workers), so much so that it will become the final summit in which all his poetry will flow together.
He regards his little prose poems as trinkets; trifles even; however, they did not belong to a minor genre but to an art of miniature. Without conviction because without ambition, the applied dilettante, who wears up the dogma of art for art's sake, despise nothing so much as literature socializing. Democracy perhaps, where the unfortunate fall 'like a butterfly in the gelatin' after being caught in the trap of popular sovereignty, this 'tyranny of beasts'. His relations with the press are a good reflection of his modern/anti-modern ambivalence since he said he did not understand that a hand could touch a newspaper without a convulsion of disgust, whereas he regularly published in L’Artiste and La Presse. His drama: a movement mystique marked by refusal and the absence of compromise. Come on ! Glory to him, which will have introduced the consciousness of modernity but with a classical language. His last words: 'No, cré nom, non…'.

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