Les Fleurs du Mal

National Book Award Winner in poetry. Charles Baudelaire’s 1857 masterwork, translated into English by acclaimed poet Richard Howard, along with the original French text.

Scandalous in its day for its portrayals of sex, love, death, the corrupting and oppressive power of the modern city and lost innocence, Les Fleurs Du Mal remains powerful and relevant for our time.

In “Spleen et idéal,” Baudelaire dramatizes the erotic cycle of ecstacy and anguish—of sexual and romantic love. “Tableaux Parisiens” condemns the crushing effects of urban planning on a city’s soul and praises the city’s anti-heroes including the deranged and derelict. “Le Vin” centers on the search for oblivion in drink and drugs. The many kinds of love that lie outside traditional morality is the focus of “Fleurs du Mal” while rebellion is at the heart of “Révolte.”

The voice of Baudelaire lives in this masterful translation. “Richard Howard, generally esteemed as the finest American translator from the French of the postwar era, offers a new version of this masterpiece,” wrote The Washington Post. “It is the English edition to acquire.”

Baudelaire revoiced…Howard’s achievement is such that we can be confident that his Flowers of Evil will long stand as definitive, a superb guide to France’s greatest poet.
The Nation

Readers of English do not have to take Baudelaire on faith any longer. For the first time he is present among us, vivid and surprisingly intact, in these fine translations.
New York Times Book Review

A deft and patient new translation of Les Fleurs Du Mal…Howard, it seems to me, has done what he has set out to, has given us, in English and in verse, a Baudelaire both immediately recognizable and impressively varied…It is a considerable achievement.
New York Review of Books

A magnificent achievement…should be the English version for a long time to come.
Booklist

Not until now has there been an edition of the entire work which successfully captures the distinctive voice of Baudelaire…The level of success among 151 lyrics is so high as to guarantee that Richard Howard’s will be the definitive translation in the foreseeable future.
Boston Globe

[An] intelligent responsiveness to the poem’s meaning informs almost every translation in this volume.
New Republic

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Charles Baudelaire was a French poet who also produced notable work as an essayist, art critic, and pioneering translator of Edgar Allan Poe. His most famous work, a book of lyric poetry titled Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil), expresses the changing nature of beauty in the rapidly industrializing Paris during the mid-nineteenth century. Baudelaire’s highly original style of prose-poetry influenced a whole generation of poets including Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, and Stéphane Mallarmé, among many others. He is credited with coining the term “modernity” (modernité) to designate the fleeting, ephemeral experience of life in an urban metropolis, and the responsibility of artistic expression to capture that experience.

Richard Howard is one of the most prolific and respected twentieth-century literary critics still living and writing today. Like many literary critics, he also writes his own poetry; unlike most critics’ poetry, his won a Pulitzer Prize. He has also received a PEN Translation Prize, a National Book Award, a Literary Award from the Academy of Arts and Letters, a MacArthur Fellowship, the title of Chevalier from France’s L’Ordre National du Merite, and the position of Poet Laureate of New York from 1993 to 1995. A longtime poetry editor at The Paris Review, he now edits The Western Humanities Review and teaches writing at Columbia University.