Friday, September 17, 2021

My hero / Charles Baudelaire by Roberto Calasso





My hero: Charles Baudelaire by Roberto Calasso

'Even when he is most harrowing, he gives pleasure'


Friday 7 December 2012

W
hen you feel exhausted and rather gloomy, the best thing to do is to lie down and open a book, just to make your mind wander somewhere else. In that moment, you discover that not all writers – not even some of the greatest – may be of help. But Baudelaire, yes; at least for me.

Not so much the often marvellous poems of the Fleurs du mal., but the prose: everywhere, in his Salons, when he talks of forgotten painters of his time; in his reviews, in his notebooks, in his essays, in his letters, in his outrageous remarks about the Belgians.
In a strange way, even at his most harrowing, he gives pleasure. One feels the vibration of a nervous system to which we cannot help but feel akin, unless we are total brutes. To resist Baudelaire is a bit like resisting Chopin: you can do it, of course, but it's so much the worse for you.
Besides, there are so many other motives for being devoted to Baudelaire, not only in literary but also psychological terms. He is one of the very few writers (Emily Dickinson may be another example) who never tried to promote himself socially. (By the way, promoting himself would have been rather easy if only he had hated his stepfather, General Aupick – a pompous ass if ever there was one – just a bit less.)
And another of his admirable and rare qualities was that he would not hear of a Baudelaire school, although among his followers one might notice young people named Mallarmé or Verlaine. But he preferred to be alone, as he had always been. Last but not least, something that should be seriously considered by the UN: Baudelaire wanted to add to the list of human rights: le droit de s'en aller, "the right to go away".
 Roberto Calasso's La Folie Baudelaire is published by Allen Lane.

THE GUARDIAN








2009
001 My hero / Oscar Wilde by Michael Holroyd
002 My hero / Harley Granville-Barker by Richard Eyre
003 My hero / Edward Goldsmith by Zac Goldsmith
004 My hero / Fridtjof Nansen by Sara Wheeler 
005 My hero / Mother Mercedes Lawler IBVM by Antonia Fraser

007 My hero / Ernest Shepard by Richard Holmes
008 My hero / JG Ballard by Will Self
009 My hero / Alan Ross by William Boyd
010 My hero / Ben the labrador by John Banville

011 My hero / Vicent van Gogh by Margaret Drabble
012 My hero / Franz Marek by Eric Hobsbawm

2010

017 My hero / Jack Yeats by Colm Tóibín
018 My hero / Francisco Goya by Diana Athill
019 My hero / Max Stafford-Clark by Sebastian Barry
020 My hero / Arthur Holmes by Richard Fortey

036 My hero / Robert Lowell by Jonathan Raban
037 My hero / Beryl Bainbridge by Michael Holroyd
038 My hero / Charles Schulz by Jenny Colgan
039 My hero / Oliver Knussen by Adam Foulds
040 My hero / Annie Proulx by Alan Warner

041 My hero / David Lynch by Paul Murray
042 My hero / Edwin Morgan by Robert Crawford
043 My hero / Anne Lister by Emma Donoghue
044 My hero / Jane Helen Harrinson by Mary Beard
045 My hero / Edmund Burke by David Marquand
046 My hero / Shelagh Deleaney by Jeanette Winterson
047 My hero / Christopher Marlowe by Val McDermid
048 My hero / Gwen John by Anne Enright
049 My hero / Michael Mayne by Susan Hill
050 My hero / Stanley Spencer by Howard Jacobson

051 My hero / William Beveridge by Will Hutton
052 My hero / Jean McConville by Amanda Foreman
053 My hero / Alexander Pushkin by Elaine Feinstein
058 My hero / Cy Twombly by Edmund de Waal

2011
079 My hero / Gene Wolfe by Neil Gaiman
087 My hero / Alberto Moravia by John Burnside
096 My hero / Isaac Babel by AD Miller
097 Lucian Freud by Esi Edugyan
100 Thomas Tranströmer by Robin Robertson
102 My hero / David Hockney by Susan Hill

2012

190 My hero / Iris Murdoch by Charlotte Mendelson
194 My hero / René Descartes by James Kelman
199 My hero / Albert Camus by Geoff Dyer

2015
2016

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