This concise biography of Stéphane Mallarmé (1842–98) blends an account of the poet’s life with a detailed analysis of his evolving poetic theory and practice. “A poet on this earth must be uniquely a poet,” he declared at the age of twenty-two—but what is a poet’s life and what isa poet’s function? In his poems and prose statements and by the example of his life, Mallarmé provided answers to these questions.
In Stéphane Mallarmé, Roger Pearson explores the relationship among Mallarmé’s life, his philosophy, and his writing. To Mallarmé, being a poet consists of a continuous, lifelong investigation of language and its expressive potential. It represents, argues Pearson, a fundamental response to the metaphysical mystery of the human condition and the desire to make sense of it for others. A poet turns everyday banality into prospects of mystery; and a poet, in Mallarmé’s conception, is able to bring all human beings together in heightened awareness and understanding of the “magnificent act of living.”
This concise and engaging biography tells the story of a fascinating and utterly unique voice in French poetry, one that was often overshadowed by other Symbolist writers. It is an essential read for students of literature and nineteenth-century France.