About a week ago, a gun that Paul Verlaine used to shoot his lover Arthur Rimbaud was sold for 434 500 €. The story that led to one of the most famous love quarrels of the art world developed something like this (at least this is the version I’ve came across many times): on the morning of the 10th of July 1873 Verlaine bought the gun in Brussels with one goal on his mind – to end the passionate, but highly dysfunctional relationship with his 18-year-old teenage prodigy lover.
The vagabond, tortured genius, a rebel, tragically lost and unadjusted, and to complete the cliché – died too soon. This is our hero – Arthur Rimbaud, the one that never grow up, but wrote better than anyone while it seemed like he’s not even trying. He probably wasn’t, it was a matter of true talent, just like when Bob Dylan described his 60s songwriting skills as something that simply came to him, he can’t completely grasp it or reproduce it, and just like the rest of us, now can only admire it.
This is the hotel where on the 10th of July 1873 P. Verlaine wounded A. Rimbaud by a gunshot
Rimbaud didn’t die from the bullet coming from that famous gun, during a drunk, probably absinthe induced fight in a hotel room, Verlaine fired two bullets at him with only one hitting him in the wrist. Nothing serious, especially for their bohemian, crazy, poetic, drunk standards, but Rimbaud got scared, called the police and Verlaine ended up serving a two-year sentence of hard labour. Apparently, Verlaine was feeling anxious and suicidal because he couldn’t get rid of his companion and wanted to move back to his wife and children, which obviously didn’t sound like an acceptable plan to Rimbaud.
Ever since the roots of my different interests were formed I created a firm connection between the two rebels I liked, although they were different and separated far away in time – Rimbaud and Sid Vicious. The latter I don’t appreciate through music as much as I did in my ‘formative’ years, but more because of his true punk attitude, although, lets face it – he was a junkie and an idiot.
Still, up to this day as a small, careless homage I wear a cheap locker pendant around my neck, just like I did for the last 8, 9, 10 years. During those early highschool years, Sid was to me an ‘ideal’ image of a fucked up friend/boyfriend who I could love only because I have never met him or had a chance to do so. Otherwise, things would’ve been different, needless to say (no pun intended). When I grew up a bit I realized that having a Sid & Nancy relationship is not something I strive for (visual aspects aside), getting stabbed to death in a hotel in weird circumstances, even if it’s the cult Hotel Chelsea, is not at all attractive or glamorous. The edge, rebellious attitude and rejection of the rules of society and imposed authority are the traits that are still and always will be stuck with me.
This also reminded me of a story when Patti Smith explained Arthur Rimbaud was kind of like her boyfriend when she was young because of so much time they’ve spent together. Their relationship obviously payed off and brought a lot to her unique expression, and Patti wasn’t alone of course – it wouldn’t be a real post without mentioning an impressive list of musicians, writers, cultural heroes who were directly inspired by Rimbaud’s surrealistic poetry: Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Dylan Thomas, Pablo Picasso, Vladimir Nabokov, Richey Edwards, Jack Kerouac….
What would have happened if he didn’t stop writing at the age of only 21? Maybe that’s where the magic came from – a sudden, intensive and mysterious explosion that will continue to inspire generation after generation of those who love to play with words in their own way. The imaginary old, long bearded Rimbaud would be sitting in a rocking chair at some point of his long life and say something like: ‘I don’t know how I did it or where it came from, it just happened and I was a lucky, reckless bastard who had the privilege to let those verses out, save them on paper and put my signature underneath.’