Adam Thirlwell has written five essays in as many years for The New Republic. They all concern themselves with literature, especially French, though the first one was about Charles Dickens and how he was the most avant-garde writer of the 19th Century. The second was about Roland Barthes' plans to write a novel which came to nothing when he died. In Visionary Materialism, Thirlwell explores Rimbaud's Illuminations from several angles. Genocide and the Fine Arts is about Claude Lanzmann, the director of Shoah, and his complicated relationship with his famous work. The latest one, Baudelaire's Humiliation as a Way of Life, is about Baudelaire's place at the crux of the 19th Century revolution in letters.
Arthur Rimbaud Documentary [via pb] is an impressionistic tour of Rimbaud's life, from a provincial upbringing, through his teenage poetic revolution, to his world travels and moderately successful business career in the Horn of Africa, featuring contemporary photographs, some taken by Rimbaud, and readings by Joan Baez. His poems (English translations, French, with some translated into English, earlier translations, with French originals) were fundamental in overthrowing the established traditions of writing and his personal story has long been an inspiration to those who chafe under the strictures of society. Ruth Franklin wrote about the whole arc of Rimbaud's life in The New Yorker, while Edmund White focuses on Rimbaud's bull-in-a-china-shop entrance into fellow poet Paul Verlaine's bourgeois existence in The Guardian. You can also read earlier biographical writings on Rimbaud, including his sister Isabelle's hagiographic account. Rimbaud's poetry has been set to music, perhaps most notably by electronic musician Hector Zazou and chansonnier Léo Ferré (links to music below the cut). [more inside]