Rimbaud the Son Pierre Michon, Jody Gladding, Elizabeth Deshays

The Margellos World Republic of Letters
Publication date:
22 Oct 2013
Yale University Press
96 pages: 197 x 127 x 6mm
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A radiant work of fiction that illuminates the life and art of Rimbaud in a way that no biography could

Rimbaud the Son, widely celebrated upon its publication in France, investigates the life of a writer, the writing life, and the art of life-writing. Pierre Michon in his groundbreaking work examines the storied life of the French poet Arthur Rimbaud by means of a new literary genre: a meditation on the life of a legend as witnessed by his contemporaries, those who knew him before the legends took hold. Michon introduces us to Rimbaud the son, friend, schoolboy, renegade, drunk, sexual libertine, visionary, and ultimately poet. Michon focuses no less on the creative act: What presses a person to write? To pursue excellence?
The author dramatizes the life of a genius whose sufferings are enormous while his ambitions are transcendent, whose life is lived with utter intensity and purpose but also disorder and dissolution—as if the very substance of life is its undoing. Rimbaud the Son is now masterfully translated into English, enabling a wide new audience to discover for themselves the author Publishers Weekly called “one of the best-kept secrets of modern French prose."

Pierre Michon is an author of high acclaim in France and Europe. He was winner of the Prix France Culture in 1984 for his first book, Small Lives, and of the 1996 Prix de la Ville de Paris for his body of work. He lives in France. Jody Gladding, a poet and translator, has translated over twenty books from the French. Elizabeth Deshays is a teacher, translator, and specialized horticulturalist. In 2009 Gladding and Deshays won the Florence Gould French-American Foundation Translation Prize for Pierre Michon’s Small Lives.


With a spellbound, ferocious humility in every way companionable to the soul of his subject, Michon writes an indispensable book. Joining Bonnefoy's Rimbaud and Miller's The Time of the Assassins, Rimbaud the Son accepts a great reading's most fateful election: "To be poetry in person." Surely, Michon has found Rimbaud in person, in his particular Heaven.
--Donald Revell, author of Pennyweight Windows: New & Selected Poems

Michon is a brilliant miniaturist of biography, best known for his collection of novellas, Small Lives. In Arthur Rimbaud he has found a perfect sitter for this tintype portrait of the Billy the Kid of French poetry—the fastest draw (and earliest silence) in the history of modern verse.
–Richard Sieburth

“Who better than Pierre Michon, brilliantly mixing biography and invention, to offer a striking portrait of Rimbaud the boy, Rimbaud the man, and Rimbaud the poet in fewer than one hundred dense and moving pages?”
 –Alyson Waters

“Readers who surrender to the strange whorls and swirls of this book will be lifted out of themselves and thrilled and sometimes richly, lastingly disoriented. This was precisely the reason why earlier generations of readers eagerly sought out the literature of other lands, exposing themselves to what the great Boston scholar George Ticknor used to refer to as “our other selves, whom we have not met.” If the Margellos World Republic of Letters seeks to revive that healthy old curiosity, they could scarcely have picked a better author for it than Michon—and more power to them.”—The Quarterly Conversation

“The French writer Pierre Michon has made a career of his obsession with biographical uncertainty. Renowned in France since his 1984 novel, Small Lives, he has now received a burst of ravishing English translations by way of Yale University Press’s Margellos World Republic of Letters series. Rimbaud the Son, translated by Jody Gladding and Elizabeth Deshays, is his moody, dagger-slim anti-biography of one of the most mythologized writers of all time.”—Sam Sacks, New Yorker