[lbo-talk] Happy Birthday, Charles Baudelaire!

B. docile_body at yahoo.com
Fri Apr 9 12:38:03 PDT 2010

The translation I copied was Richard Howard's, which won the American Book Award after it came out in 1982 and seems to have become the standard English translation, with lots of nice blurbs by The NY Review of Books, The Nation, New Republic, Boston Globe, etc. For whatever that is or isn't worth.

Howard admits his own translation's strategy, and provides a petty good introductory explanation of why he did what, and where; it ought to be a priori knowledge that any literatture is probably better in its original language. Howard's translation is prefaced with this Walter Benjamin quote: "[A] traslation comes later than the original, and since the important works of world literature never find their chosen translators at the time of their origin, their translation marks the stage of continued life."

Having said that, I do like the Robert Lowell translation of the opening Fleurs du Mal poem, "To the Reader," better than Howard's. No less than 6 different English translations of the opening poem are available at this one page: http://fleursdumal.org/poem/099

Lowell's amazingly graphic translation is the 5th one down. ("Among the vermin, jackals, panthers, lice, / gorillas and tarantulas that suck / and snatch and scratch and defecate and fuck / in the disorderly circus of our vice, / there's one more ugly and abortive birth.")


On 4/9/10 1:30 PM, dredmond at efn.org wrote:

"Hmm, the English translation is a bit woolly. Here's the original French, followed by my own quick-and-ready version, which hopefully communicates more of the scintillating wordplay (there's probably a better version online, but I'm too busy to find it right now):"

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list