John Ashbery's long-awaited, virtuosic translation of Arthur Rimbaud's Illuminations is presented with the French text in parallel and a preface by its new translator. Given Rimbaud's own cavalier attitude toward his most substantial work, few would have thought the "bunch of unpaginated and untitled pages" that Rimbaud handed his former lover Paul Verlaine (who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier) would turn out to be one of the greatest poems ever written. Yet, over time, this "collection of magic lantern slides," each an "intense and rapid dream," came to be recognized as an unparalleled masterpiece of world literature. Ashbery's rendering of all forty-four poems powerfully evokes the kaleidoscopic beauty of the original and creates "a vision of postdiluvian freshness" out of "the chaos of ice floes and the polar night."
A major literary event, Ashbery's new translation enables a new generation of English readers to enter "the splendid cities" so stunningly depicted by Rimbaud.