Somebody Else: Arthur Rimbaud in Africa 1880-91
by Charles Nicholl
University of Chicago Press, 1999
Paper: 978-0-226-58029-6

At the age of twenty-five, Arthur Rimbaud—the infamous author of A Season in Hell, the pioneer of modernism, the lover and destroyer of Verlaine, the "hoodlum poet" celebrated a century later by Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison—turned his back on poetry, France, and fame, for a life of wandering in East Africa.

In this compelling biography, Charles Nicholl pieces together the shadowy story of Rimbaud's life as a trader, explorer, and gunrunner in Africa. Following his fascinating journey, Nicholl shows how Rimbaud lived out that mysterious pronouncement of his teenage years: "Je est un autre"—I is somebody else.

"Rimbaud's fear of stasis never left him. 'I should like to wander over the face of the whole world,' he told his sister, Isobelle, 'then perhaps I'd find a place that would please me a little.' The tragedy of Rimbaud's later life, superbly chronicled by Nicholl, is that he never really did."—London Guardian

"Nicholl has excavated a mosaic of semi-legendary anecdotes to show that they were an essential part of the poet's journey to become 'somebody else.' Not quite biography, not quite travel book, in the end Somebody Else transcends both genres."—Sara Wheeler, Daily Telegraph

"At the end of Somebody Else Rimbaud is more interesting and more various than before: he is not less mysterious, but he is more real."—Susannah Clapp, Observer Review
    Introduction: At the Empty Inn
    Part One: The Runaway
    1. Desertions
    2. My Ballerinas
    3. Verlaine
    4. 'Deux Gentlemen'
    5. Hell
    6. Soles of Wind
    7. Alexandria & Beyond
    Part Two: The Trader
    8. Karani
    9. Caravan No 3
    10. Harar
    11. Bet Rimbo
    12. Dogs & Bandits
    13. The Camera
    14. Exploring
    15. Faithful Servant
    16. The Abyssinian Woman
    Part Three: The Gun-Runner
    17. The Labatut Affair
    18. The Air of Djibouti
    19. Tadjourah
    20. Danakil Crossing
    21. At the Court of King Menelik
    22. The Way Back
    23. Cairo
    Part Four: The African
    24. Rimbaud's Circle
    25. Bazaar Fever
    26. 'As for the Slaves...'
    27. The Hammer Blow
    28. Returning
    29. The Last Journey
    'Stringy Kids': A Personal Note

See other books on: 1854-1891 | Journeys | Nicholl, Charles | Poets, French | Rimbaud, Arthur
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