The life of Arthur Rimbaud, a man who gave up literature at the age of , remains as legendary as his poetic work From his first writings, his stormy relationship with the poet Paul Verlaine and his bohemian existence in Paris and London, to his life as a wandering trader in Arabia and Yemen, Jean Luc Steinmetz delivers a biography which seeks to bring out the spiritual and logical continuity of Rimbaud s life long pursuit of desire In high school, my favorite Po tes maudits were Baudelaire and Mayakovsky The whole Rimbaud cult brushed me only lightly as a teenager an edition of his complete works was one of but two books I brought on a trip to Russia, and I immediately regretted packing it To make matters worse, the alternative was As I Lay Dying, an kitschy piece of ersatz Joyce that blasted my budding Faulkner veneration I would fondle editions of Nabokov in the bookstores, wishing I could read them I was finally re In high school, my favorite Po tes maudits were Baudelaire and Mayakovsky The whole Rimbaud cult brushed me only lightly as a teenager an edition of his complete works was one of but two books I brought on a trip to Russia, and I immediately regretted packing it To make matters worse, the alternative was As I Lay Dying, an kitschy piece of ersatz Joyce that blasted my budding Faulkner veneration I would fondle editions of Nabokov in the bookstores, wishing I could read them I was finally reduced to a borrowed, appropriately backpack battered copy of The Dharma Bums There are not many who can drive me into the arms of Jack Kerouac For a comprehensive biography of Rimbaud, it s either this one or Graham Robb s book which came out around the same time, incidently, in the early 2000s Enid Starkie s early biography is also a must read but the later works are better overall simply due to the greater wealth of source material these authors had availible Most everything you d wish to know about the mecurial poet s life is here at least insofar as to what can be known So much remains a mystery, but then that s half of Rimbaud For a comprehensive biography of Rimbaud, it s either this one or Graham Robb s book which came out around the same time, incidently, in the early 2000s Enid Starkie s early biography is also a must read but the later works are better overall simply due to the greater wealth of source material these authors had availible Most everything you d wish to know about the mecurial poet s life is here at least insofar as to what can be known So much remains a mystery, but then that s half of Rimbaud s continued allure, is it not Overall, this is a good book but at times is not as flowing and entertaining as Robb s biography, however, it is a stronger book than the Robb volume in its information and presentation Really though, you can t go wrong with either Steinmetz or Robb and the hardcore Rimbaud fan or scholar needs both books Disclaimer I have not posted a review of this book I have posted a few comments, quite as if I were entering certain of my responses into a reading journal.This is the third bio of AR that I ve read in the last two or three months quite enough for the present, I would say I find it interesting, however, how differently I read this particular volume It seems to me at this moment that while I read Robb and Nicholls on AR, I was acquiring information and formulating my own sense of AR and att Disclaimer I have not posted a review of this book I have posted a few comments, quite as if I were entering certain of my responses into a reading journal.This is the third bio of AR that I ve read in the last two or three months quite enough for the present, I would say I find it interesting, however, how differently I read this particular volume It seems to me at this moment that while I read Robb and Nicholls on AR, I was acquiring information and formulating my own sense of AR and attempting to sketch a trajectory of his life from the bits of evidence and the results of rather inconclusive analyses and interpretations that these biographers presented As I read Steinmetz, I found myself looking for information, interpretations in his narrative that enhanced, amplified, confirmed, amended, refuted, etc., my ideas of the trajectory of AR s life and the sources of the energy and drive that propelled his life along that trajectory So it seems to me that I was better prepared to grapple with Steinmetz s account than I had been heretofore.So what did I find Not very much of interest, I m sorry to say The great virtue of Steinmetz s narrative is the force and clarity of certain of his descriptions of events and circumstances of AR s life For example, his pages on the months and days of AR s last illness are riveting and horrifying I have no idea why AR consented to endure the final stages of terminal bone cancer But he did.Nonetheless, my impression is that Steinmetz offered me nothing that served either to enhance or correct my understanding either of the man or his life Steinmetz indulged a habit that I find highly annoying He drops here and there altogether vacuous phrases for which he offers not the first word of explanation and then abandons them for other words that refer to nothing specific For example, he writes p 169 a certain pledge to existence would later unravel on a bed in Marseilles, burned out from an overdose of the absolute What is the absolute How much of it constitutes an overdose And by the way, how does one imbibe that particular quantity Then this theme disappears from Steinmetz s pages Then there s this annoyance p 222 after this time Rimbaud no longer believes in literature He forsakes this practice for other,effective ones that permit him to be absolutely modern S attaches no reference to this quote It escapes me altogether how any competent biographer of AR could even begin to think that this man would ever formulate and or adopt a set of conventions to which one could attach a label as obligatory standards of behavior And again, p 225 Now here is Rimbaud the realist who wishes to go to Greece with the hope of finding a modern kind of job making soap, for example Is the making of soap one of mankind s recent achievements From that point the word modern does not appear again in Steinmetz s bio Then there s Rimbaud, hardened in his own created image, without so much as one word of rationale for his claim that AR formulated and projected a concept of self and then proceeded to make life decisions, to behave as if that image concept were some sort of standard to which he had to conform Non sense Then there s this It is difficult to determine his true nature p 346 , the real Rimbaud, Rimabud s identity remains a secret p 348 Quite as if self and identify were fixed entities to which one might attach specific attributes, as if one might measure the atomic weight of one molecule of identity and the real self.Most annoying of all, however, is the book s subtitle Presence of an Enigma Steinmetz appears to use enigma in two senses, one of which is dubious at best In certain passages he associates enigma with his assessment of the state of biographical information regarding one event or another in AR s life, referring specifically to gaps in the record That absence characterizes our knowledge of AR s biography, the uncertainties that inhere in any conclusions we draw from the incomplete and often conflicting, unclear, conflicting information in the collection that remains to us I can t think how gaps in the record render AR enigmatic at all The state of our knowledge is not an attribute of AR In other passages Steinmetz uses enigmatic to characterize desires, drives in AR that would remain inexplicable even if we were completely informed, if the record were entirely complete Yet Steinmetz doesn t give reasons for his characterization Enigmatic for whom Why enigmatic What exactly places a reasonably certain understanding of AR and the trajectory of his life beyond our grasp Steinmetz doesn t say He simply lets the word dangle I have no patience whatever with this sort of parlor game.So what am I left with Much clearer images of certain places, circumstances and events in AR s life than either Robb or Nicholls enabled Not much else except for the laugh at myself that I laughed at being taken in by that notorious publisher s ploy an intriguing but ultimately vacuous subtitle