A Season in Hell & Illuminations
Publication Date: August 9, 2005
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Translated, edited and with an Introduction by Wyatt Mason
“The definitive translation for our time.”
From Dante’s Inferno to Sartre’s No Exit, writers have been fascinated by visions of damnation. Within that rich literature of suffering, Arthur Rimbaud’s A Season in Hell–written when the poet was nineteen–provides an astonishing example of the grapple with self.
As a companion to Rimbaud’s journey, readers could have no better guide than Wyatt Mason. One of our most talented young translators and critics, Mason’s new version of A Season in Hell renders the music and mystery of Rimbaud’s tale of Hell on Earth with exceptional finesse and power.
This bilingual edition includes maps, a helpful chronology of Rimbaud’s life, and the unfinished suite of prose poems, Illuminations. With A Season in Hell, they cement Rimbaud’s reputation as one of the foremost, and most influential, writers in French literature.
Wyatt Mason is a contributing editor of Harper’s magazine, where his essays regularly appear. He also writes for The London Review of Books and The New Republic. The Modern Library has published his translations of the complete works of Arthur Rimbaud in two volumes. His translations of Dante’s Vita Nuova and Montaigne’s Essais are in progress.
“It's quite likely that [the season’s] most exciting new book of verse was stamped Made in France more than a century ago. É Rimbaud Complete, Wyatt Mason's bouncy new translation of the avant-garde poet's hallucinatory corpus, finds new music in the writing, revealing a classical artist.”
–Editor’s Choice, A- Entertainment Weekly
“An important new rendering of a major poet.”
“Mason's translations are confident and contemporary–muscular but without muscling in on the originals. There is no crabby diction, but neither is there that self conscious pseudo-hipness with which it's all too tempting to render Rimbaud's lolling truculence of pose. Mason's approach has been to aim for common (as distinct from middle) ground between the literalist and the free, and the decision to translate successive versions and drafts pays off too, letting English-speaking readers see the genesis of poems and trace their often substantial alterations. Mason gets Rimbaud's range across impressively.”
–The Times Literary Supplement
“Mason does a splendid job in arrangement and translation.”
“Wyatt Mason's translations of Rimbaud's literary works manage, more than any others, to convey to contemporary ears the real sense of the work. Previous attempts had strained to maintain a sense of the French style or an equivalence in rhyme and form. For all their good intentions, these ideals forced the renderings into awkward locutions or pretentiously formal tropes, making Rimbaud sound as much like a biblical elder as a modern poet. Mason has finally given us an English Rimbaud we can read as we should, as if he were kin to Jack Kerouac, to Charles Bukowski, to Jim Morrison [É] his Rimbaud Complete will surely live on as the standard edition.
–The Toronto Star
“Wyatt Mason’s [translations] capture the rigours of the original.”
–London Review of Books
“Exceptional new translator Wyatt Mason limns the afterlife of Arthur Rimbaud's 37 chaotic years on Earth É There is no small literary excitement in this, one of the best Rimbaud translations in English and certainly the most complete.”
–Editor’s Choice, Buffalo News
“A monumental achievementÉa book to treasure.”
–Scotland on Sunday
Praise for Wyatt Mason’s
Rimbaud Complete, Volume 2: I Promise to be Good, The Letters
“Perhaps you know him only by myth: Bad boy rebel poet, possibly gay but probably bisexual, lover of the lesser poet Paul Verlaine, survivor of literary and romantic scenes worthy of Norman Mailer. [É] Wyatt Mason, in a word, detests all that; he shows us, in his straightforward translations of these letters from the second half of Rimbaud's life (ages 19 to 37), a man dedicated to factual information, a simple but elegant describer of the foreign lands [É] a man who gives up poetry to look at the world with a disciplined eye, who sleeps outdoors for the last 20 years of his life–now there's a writer you can sink your teeth into.”
–The Los Angeles Times
“The book is fascinating for the voice it revealsÉthe postpoetic Rimbaud, the man glimpsed in bracingly cold letters sent to his family. [É] Mason’s translation is crisp and lively, and his clear-eyed introduction is essential reading for anyone besotted with the image of the poet as tragic figure.”
–Time Out New York
“Mason, the American translator who last year published Rimbaud's collected poems in English [unveils] an Apollonian craftsman, one who took infinite pains to achieve perfection of expression [É]. Mason's an agile, skillful translator.”
“Thanks to Wyatt Mason’s masterly translations, Rimbaud has, after a century and a half, recovered his gift.”
“Modern Library’s Rimbaud Complete, translated and edited by Wyatt MasonÉincludes all of Rimbaud’s poetry as well as uncollected writings ranging from Latin school compositions to fragments of poems reconstructed by his acquaintances. This is now joined by I Promise to Be Good: The Letters of Arthur Rimbaud, the largest sampling of the poet’s correspondence yet to appear in English.” –The New Yorker
“Mason's elegant translations flow smoothly off the page.”
“Wyatt Mason’s translation of Rimbaud’s letters is a swashbuckler of a book, nothing less than a resurrection of a remarkable like. As such, it is worth companion to Mason’s fine translation of the poems. No admirer of Rimbaud will want to be without it.”
“The letters themselves are bizarre, twisted, and oddly welcoming. [É] Mason's introduction is invaluable. It grounds the details from Rimbaud's letters in a concrete narrative, filling in gaps without the benefit of other people's return letters, the other half of Rimbaud's conversations. Mason acts as conductor, whispering into our ears through footnotes that treat their subject playfully and respectfully at the same time.”
–San Francisco Bay Guardian