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Baudelaire in Chains
A Portrait of the Artist as a Drug Addict
It is commonly known that Baudelaire used opium. Many writers have described him as being addicted to the drug, but few biographers, Frank Hilton argues, have fully understood the effect of opiate addiction on personality, and, in the case of Baudelaire, the extent to which it damaged his life and work. It is a subject that is usually treated as some kind of bolt-on extra. In this fascinating and original contribution to Baudelaire studies Hilton contends that the drug is at the root of ALL Baudelaire's problems, and in particular his chronic inability to apply himself to any prolonged creative work which constantly tormented him. Unquestionably there is significantly more to Baudelaire than his opium addiction. But a proper awareness of what it did to the poet helps to illuminate those puzzling aspects of his life and behaviour that were not previously understood. Written with the general reader in mind, Baudelaire in Chains will give those who know little or nothing about him a comprehensive picture of his life. To those who know a great deal it will present him in an unexpected light.
Most of Baudelaire's works have been made available in English, including several award-winning translations over the last decade. However there have been only 2 major biographies of Baudelaire in the last 20 years: by Joanna Richardson (John Murray, 1994) and Pichois and Ziegler (Hamish Hamilton, 1989). Neither title is currently in print and neither deals with Baudelaire's opium addiction.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
"Colloquially written, in an often engaging style more reminiscent of contemporary journalism than standard scholarly research, this is the account of Hilton's determination to "winkle out" Baudelaire's secret, breaking through a reserve he reads as 'typically English.'' --French Review