Arthur Rimbaud Biography (Page 3)

Escaping Poetry: The Abyssinian Era

Ernest Delahaye.

December 1878, Rimbaud is in Lanarka, Cyprus, working as a team leader in a stone quarry. After six months he falls ill with typhoid fever and travels back to Roche for treatment where he's visited by his friend Ernest Delahaye.

Delahaye asks him whether he's still thinking about literature; he reports Rimbaud's response as follows:

"Shaking his head, he had a half-amused, half-irritated smile, as if I had asked him: "Do you still play with a hoop?" and simply answered: "I do not mind about it anymore."

Arthur supervises the construction of the governor's residence in Cyprus.
(Arthur Rimbaud Flash Bio Screenshot).

In March 1880, Rimbaud is back in Cyprus to supervise the construction of the governor's residence, then working in another stone quarry. At the beginning of August, he moves to Aden where he works for Bardey & Co, an import/export company trading in coffee. After three months he takes over a new agency of Bardey & Co in Harer, Abyssinia.

In May 1881, Rimbaud has to be treated for syphilis. Having recovered he continues to work for Bardey & Co for the following ten years, traveling the country, more and more speaking fluent Arabic and becoming familiar with the Koran. He plans to expand, to go on expeditions, to write a book about Harer, orders a camera and develops an interest in technology.

Yet in spite of his busy life, he often feels discontent and unhappy. On May 6, 1883, Rimbaud writes in a letter to his family:

Arthur and his Abyssinian girlfriend.
(Arthur Rimbaud Flash Bio Screenshot).

"(...) I regret not being married, not having a family. But now I am condemned to wander, attached to a faraway company, and every day I lose the taste for the climate and the manners of living, and even the language of Europe.
Alas! What is the use of these comings and goings, and this tiredness and these adventures...?"

In February 1884, Bardey & Co goes bankrupt and Rimbaud has to close his Harer agency.

He returns to Aden in April and lives there with an Abyssinian girl for the next two years.

Rise And Demise

Arthur the gun dealer.
(Arthur Rimbaud Flash Bio Screenshot).

From October 1885 to July 1887 Rimbaud deals in weapons, delivering guns to King Menilek of Shewa who is waging war against the emperor of Abyssinia. As his business partner Pierre Labatut dies of cancer and his other partner Paul Soleillet short after suffers a deadly stroke, Rimbaud's plans fail; moreover, he is obliged to cover Labatut's debts.

During this time Verlaine publishes The Accursed Poets, including a chapter about Rimbaud, and at the beginning of summer 1886, Rimbaud's Illuminations are published in Vogue. Thus, Rimbaud becomes well known in Paris again while he's on vacation in Cairo with his young servant Djami Wadaï, returning to Aden on October 8.

Arthur and César Tian's hardware store in Harer.

In March 1888 Rimbaud and César Tian, a trader from Aden, open a new trade agency in Harer, selling hardware. Rimbaud's best friend during that time is the Swiss engineer Alfred Ilg, who later becomes King Menilek's prime minister.

Most people around him describe Rimbaud as a taciturn, withdrawn man with a dry sense of humor and an unsteady temper, leading a very unassuming, almost ascetic life and helping the poor, yet also often seeming rather unhappy and discontent.

In France, more of Rimbaud's poems are being published and his popularity steadily increases. Arthur learns about this development through a letter from his former classmate Paul Bourde.

Only the amputation of his right leg can save Arthur's life... but not for long.
(Arthur Rimbaud Flash Bio Screenshot).

In February 1891, Rimbaud checks into the European Hospital in Aden due to intense pain in his right knee. He is diagnosed with an advanced stage of synovitis, already developing into a cancerous tumor. Learning that amputation is inevitable to save his life, Arthur liquidates his business and on May 9 takes the boat to France.

On May 27 his right leg is being removed at the Conception Hospital in Marseilles. His mother visits him but leaves again so soon that Arthur is deeply shocked and is said to have never forgiven her.

He walks with crutches for a while, then gets a wooden leg.

Walking having been a pivotal part of his life, his depression and despair are boundless; especially since he views his amputation as the major obstacle which is to prevent him from pursuing the plans he had for the future. In a letter to his sister Isabelle he writes:

"(...) What a nuisance, what a fatigue what a sadness when I think about all my ancient travels, and how active I was just 5 months ago! Where are the runnings across mountains, the cavalcades, the walks, the deserts, the rivers and the seas? (...) And to think I precisely had decided to come back to France this summer to get married! Goodbye wedding, goodbye family, goodbye future! My life is gone, I'm no more than an immobile trunk (...)"

Arthur Rimbaud's tomb in Charleville.

On July 23, he travels to Roche where Isabelle is taking care of him for a month. Then they return back to Marseilles where Arthur hopes to receive better treatment of his worsening condition. Back in hospital, the doctors diagnose him with a terminal stage of cancer. Rimbaud starts to become more and more delirious. He wishes to go back to Harer to see his servant Djami.

Arthur Rimbaud dies on November 10, 1891 at age 37. He is buried in Charleville.

Arthur Rimbaud: The Legacy

Arthur Rimbaud's sister Isabelle.

Feeling the need to restore the reputation of her brother, Isabelle spreads that he died like "a good Christian". According to Rimbaud's last will, she intends to pay his legacy of 750 thalaris to Djami, but as it shows that Djami has passed away, too, the money goes to his heirs.

Isabelle's husband, the artist Paterne Berrichon (pseudonym of Pierre-Eugène Dufour), who is a great admirer of Rimbaud, helps her to publish Arthur's work and letters.

ISCH ART - the producers of the Art Rimbaud Project.

Arthur Rimbaud's style has influenced a large number of artists throughout the times and still continues to do so over a century after his death.

His work has not only inspired literature movements, such as the Beats; musicians and songwriters like Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison and Patti Smith have named Arthur Rimbaud and his poetry as an inspiration for their own works.

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