Bohemians of the Latin Quarter arrived in the mail yesterday and I have to say it has, by far, one of the most unrelated covers I have come across. Flowers and butterflies adorn the cover of this book about Bohemians in Paris in the late 1800s. I bought this book for some background reading for my thesis. It is embarrassing to look at, not one you would want to be caught reading on the bus or train!
But it has come in handy already. From the draft chapter I am working on:
The term, poètes maudits (accursed poet) was popularied by Paul Verlaine’s Les Poètes Maudits (1884,1888), a collection of studies of neglected French poets (including Rimbaud) (Burch 752-53). Rimbaud – romantic, Symbolist, decadent and libertine – reputedly referred to by Victor Hugo an “infant Shakespeare”, has become the enduring figure of the poètes maudits. And this idea of accursed/ rebel poets and the youthful genius of Rimbaud have created an idealism that emanated throughout the decades, and was taken up in varying ways by many generation of 68 poets. What Rimbaud provided, more than any form or style, was rather a model for how to be a poet, a rebel, a fringe dweller, an idealism regarding poetry and the idea of poetry as a serious, even revolutionary commitment. Daphane Merkin has characterised Rimbaud as the “patron saint of adolescent attitude”, “a debauched and restless prodigy” and one could add figure head of the spirit of bohemianism to the account.
The bohemian myth existed even in Rimbaud’s time in Paris, “the idea of the artist as a different sort of person from his fellow human beings” a myth “founded on the idea of the Artist as Genius… the artist against society”. Bohemians are the embodiment of “dissidence, opposition,[and] criticism of the status quo” (Wilson 3). Henry Murger introduced bohemians to Parisian consciousness in 1850s with his short stories based around the lives of artists, where the essential basis of bohemianism was represented as a life lived for art.