Roberto Calasso

from la folie
baudelaire

at one time, everything that the imagination and trade could offer was presented in the form of Universal Expositions. It was a perpetual updating of the psyche, a growing catalog of its elements. For this reason the Crystal Palace terrified Dostoevsky. Under its transparent ceilings were housed, as in a greenhouse, an overwhelming blossoming of simulacra. In this, too, Rimbaud wanted to go against the flow with regard to time. He did not want to be just a spectator but an object in the Exposition. And he made this known by following the only path available: in one of his letters to his family (which were so many monologues). Always maintaining a practical tone, like a merchant: “I’m sorry I won’t be able to take a trip to the Exposition this year, but my income is far too low to permit this and besides, here I am absolutely alone, and, if I left, my business would disappear completely. So it will be for another time; and perhaps on that occasion I shall be able to show the products of this country and, perhaps, show myself, because I believe that a fellow must have an extremely bizarre air after a long sojourn in countries like this one.” Having disembarked from his drunken boat, Rimbaud had succeeded in becoming one of those savages who escorted him from the banks. If the fortunes of his œuvre have gone well beyond the region of the poets, it is also because, in the end, Rimbaud succeeded in his intention: to exhibit himself, like an ethnographic specimen captured in the forest.