Books: Prodigious Prodigy

ARTHUR RIMBAUD (491 pp.)—Enid Sfarkie—New Directions ($10).

Seventy-one years ago, a poet was dying of gangrene in a Marseille hospital: one of his legs was amputated, the other might have to go. "Have yourself chopped up, torn to bits, shredded," he wrote to his sister, "but don't let them amputate you ... To have to perform acrobatic stunts all day long for the mere semblance of existing!" Soon after, Arthur Rimbaud was dead; he had just turned 37.

Rimbaud was the classic beautiful boy, whose fatal charm somehow carried within itself the seeds of...

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