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One of the most written-about literary figures in the past decade, Arthur Rimbaud left few traces when he abandoned poetry at age twenty-one and disappeared into the African desert. Although the dozen biographies devoted to Rimbauds life depend on one main source for informationhis own correspondencea complete edition of these remarkable letters has never been published in English. Until now.
A moving document of decline, Rimbauds letters begin with the enthusiastic artistic pronouncements of a fifteen-year-old genius, and end with the bitter what-ifs of a man whose life has slipped disastrously away. But whether soapboxing on the essence of art, or struggling under the yoke of self-imposed exile in the desert of his later years, Rimbaud was incapable of writing an uninteresting sentence. As translator and editor Wyatt Mason makes clear in his engaging Introduction, the letters reveal a Rimbaud very different from our expectations. Rimbaudpresented by many biographers as a bohemian wild manis unveiled as diligent in his pursuit of his goals . . . wildly, soberly ambitious, in poetry, in everything.
I Promise to Be Good: The Letters of Arthur Rimbaud is the second and final volume in Masons authoritative presentation of Rimbauds writings. Called by Edward Hirsch the definitive translation for our time, Masons first volume, Rimbaud Complete (Modern Library, 2002), brought Rimbauds poetry and prose into vivid focus. In I Promise to Be Good, Mason adds the missing epistolary pieces to our picture of Rimbaud. These letters, he writes, are proofs in all their varietyof impudence and precocity, of tenderness and ragefor the existence of Arthur Rimbaud. I Promise to Be Good allows English-language readers to see with new eyes one of the most extraordinary poets in history.
From the Hardcover edition.