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The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire review – the essence of a genius

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This translation is the best way yet for English speakers to enter the poet’s dream-like world

I suspect that in the UK Baudelaire is more nodded to respectfully than actually read. This is a pity, because he could be said to have been the first modern poet: TS Eliot thought so, saying he was “the greatest exemplar in modern poetry in any language”.

It is as much a matter of his state of mind as anything else. Baudelaire was given to reverie and despair in more or less equal parts or, as he put it, “Spleen et Idéal”. He was very conscious of the way his mind was elsewhere, unsuited to quotidian existence. The idea of the poet who is scornful or terrified of everyday life pretty much begins with him.

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