Archive for January, 2009

Philip K Dick’s A Scanner Darkly

January 19, 2009

One of Philip K Dick’s best novels is A Scanner Darkly.














The story is set in a not-too-distant future, and it involves an undercover cop named Bob Arctor, who becomes involved with a dangerous new drug and begins to lose his own identity as a result.


It has recently been made into a brilliant film by Richard Linklater.














The film stars Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson and Winona Ryder.


Here’s a scene from the film, to give you an idea of its tone and style.



If you get a chance, read Philip K Dick’s A Scanner Darkly and watch Richard Linklater’s film version of it. They’re both very good – the novel’s worth reading for its insights into surveillance and its attendant paranoia, and the film’s worth watching for its visual style and its script – and for the superb quality of the acting.



Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil & Artificial Paradise

January 14, 2009

The Flowers of Evil & Artificial Paradise

by Charles Baudelaire

Translated by R J Dent


baudelaire flowers of evil

‘A brand new translation that vividly brings Baudelaire’s masterpiece to life for the new millennium’


Here’s my new book. It’s a translation of Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil, published by Solar Books on November 9th 2008. According to the blurb it’s ‘a brand new translation that vividly brings Baudelaire’s masterpiece to life for the new millennium’.



The translation was a labour of love; it started years ago, when I studied Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal as an undergraduate. I realised how inaccurate the available translations were, and promptly set about translating twenty or so of the best poems, particularly the banned ones. In the process, I very quickly came to admire Charles Baudelaire’s poetic voice. It was refined and dignified, and yet very daring. I now understand these contradictions, if that’s what they are.


Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire



I found the translation process itself very interesting. Because Baudelaire’s writing is very visual, it was almost like time-travel; I wandered around 19th century Paris, absorbing the sights, sounds, scents; was taken into the bedrooms of many dusky women, all of them sprawled across their beds, dressed only in jewels and perfume.


When I had finished the translation, I was back in the 21st century. I couldn’t wait to get back to Baudelaire’s Paris. The translation process itself was very much like archaeology. I had the French text and I would work at it steadily, uncovering its buried English meaning, word by word, line by line, until finally, the whole poem would stand naked before me in all its pristine glory. That’s Baudelaire’s poetry for you. If only all translation work was like that.


Incidentally, I very much enjoyed translating the introductory essay by Guillaume Apollinaire, which is now published for the first time in English.


Solar Books has done a great job with The Flowers of Evil. With it they’ve included a new version of Artificial Paradise, which is a series of Baudelaire’s reflections on wine, hashish and opium.


Odilon Redon’s cover picture, which he painted specifically for The Flowers of Evil, perfectly captures the zeitgeist of Baudelaire’s 19th century Paris.




The Flowers of Evil & Artificial Paradise

Charles Baudelaire

Translated by R J Dent




ISBN-10: 0-9799847-7-7

ISBN-13: 978-0-9799847-7-8

Publication date: November 2008




It can be ordered from Solar Books at:




or from at:




or from at:






Details of this book and my other works can be found at:
















Daphne du Maurier’s Best Stories

January 12, 2009

Readers of Daphne du Maurier’s novels and short stories usually credit Rebecca as being the author’s best work, but there are other, better stories by this very talented writer.

Daphne du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier

One very good novel of du Maurier’s is The House on the Strand, a time-travel story in the same vein as Bid Time Return (filmed as Somewhere in Time) by Richard Matheson.


The Birds and Other Stories is a very good collection of short stories, not only for the titular short story (made famous by Alfred Hitchcock’s film version), but also for the inclusion of the macabre novella, The Apple Tree.

The Birds and Other Stories

The Birds and Other Stories

Don’t Look Now and Other Stories is another very good collection, not only for the titular short story (made famous by Nic Roeg’s film version), but also because of the inclusion of The Way of the Cross, a psychologically complex longish short story of redemption.

Don't Look Now and Other Stories

Don’t Look Now and Other Stories

Another good collection of short stories is The Breaking Point. This collection includes The Blue Lenses, which is probably the most ingenious of all of du Maurier’s stories and is reminiscent of Eugene Ionesco at his best.

The Breaking Point and Other Stories

Regarding other short story collections, The Rendezvous and Other Stories is worth reading for the title story alone, although the other stories in the collection are also very good.

The Rendezvous and Other Stories

The Rendezvous and Other Stories

The Doll is another valuable story collection . In the title story, a waterlogged notebook is washed ashore. Its pages tell a dark story of obsession and jealousy. But the fate of its narrator is a mystery.

Many of the stories in this haunting collection have only recently been discovered. Most were written early in Daphne du Maurier’s career, yet they display her mastery of atmosphere, tension and intrigue and reveal a cynicism far beyond her years.

The Doll - Short Stories

The Doll – Short Stories

Finally, best of all is the novel Castle Dor. This is a strange one, because it is a novel that was started – and then abandoned by author and critic, Arthur Quiller-Couch. Quiller-Couch’s daughter asked Daphne du Maurier to complete it, which she did, giving it a major overhaul in the process. The result is a moody and atmospheric retelling of the Tristan and Isolde story.

Castle Dor

Castle Dor

It is not generally known, but Daphne du Maurier was a very good horror, science fiction and fantasy writer. Most of her works fit easily into the Gothic genre and many of her best stories put forward (in a very naturalistic way) themes and situations that are supernatural and other-worldly.

The books mentioned above are a good place to start if you are new to Du Maurier’s work. If you are already familiar with some of her work, try these books I’ve mentioned. You might be surprised at how good a writer Daphne du Maurier actually is.

Daphne du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier

© R J Dent (2014)


Paris, Baudelaire, Beckett, Moonstone Silhouettes, the Seine and the Three Graces

January 11, 2009

Paris in December, 2008. Visiting Charles Baudelaire’s grave was paramount. I put my translation of Baudelaire’s poem Landscape on his grave. I covered it with a copy of the cover of my recently-published translation of Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil & Artificial Paradise.

The Flowers of Evil (Translated by R J Dent)

It was a very moving moment, made all the more poignant by the fact that a steady stream of people visited his grave. People came in ones and twos to pay their respects and/or leave offerings. I knew Baudelaire was considered an important literary figure in France, one who is still ignored and derided in England, but I had no idea that he was so revered by the French.

Charles Baudelaire

There are three names on the gravestone, there being just the one stone for the family plot. The name at the top is Jacques Aupick, Baudelaire’s stepfather, a man that Baudelaire hated. Next is Charles Baudelaire’s name. Beneath his name is Caroline Archenbaut Defayes, Baudelaire’s mother, a woman he loved dearly.

Baudelaire should really be in his own grave and have his own gravestone. Either that or a new stone should be cut that puts Charles Baudelaire’s name at the top – after all, he’s the reason that people go to that particular grave.

Charles Baudelaire's grave © 2009 R J Dent archive

In the same cemetery, I found Samuel Beckett’s grave.

Samuel Beckett's grave © 2009 R J Dent Archive

It was simple and unadorned. And no one visited it. It was all very Beckett-ian.

Samuel Beckett

Later that day I walked along the left bank of the Seine, then had coffee and croissants in a riverside café.

Seine (left bank) ©  2009 R J Dent archive

Continuing my theme of pretention, I spent a part of that day proof-reading and editing my latest poetry collection, Moonstone Silhouettes. The collection needed proofing and editing so I took it with me to France, simply so that I would always know that it had been edited in Paris. Now Moonstone Silhouettes will always be tinged with memories of Paris, December 2008.

moonstone silhouettes - r j dent

On another day I went into the Louvre and stood in front of the Three Graces. It’s my favourite sculpture. I found it by accident – having forgotten it was in the Louvre. I was wandering through the less-crowded rooms, trying to avoid the Mona Lisa/Venus de Milo/Da Vinci Code mob – and doing a very good job of it – when I went into a cool, spacious room and almost fell over the Three Graces. There they were – right in front of me – and all three looking quite lovely too. Obviously I wanted to touch them and I did reach out a hand – but at the last minute, sense, or lack of nerve, prevailed and I stood there simply staring in awe at those beautiful stone nymphs.

The Three Graces - Louvre

Obviously there’s a lot more, but that’s all I’m sharing at present. Paris was wonderful, a delightful experience, full of wonders, marvels and deep emotions. Every time I stepped outside in Paris, I could feel the air crackle with the electricity of life.

Paris at night ©  2009 R J Dent archive

Paris is a city for the eternally young. I will go back – and I’ll probably edit and proof-read another book of mine while I’m there. I might even touch the Three Graces. They won’t mind.

Au revoir.


© R J Dent (2009)

Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil & Artificial Paradise translated by R J Dent is available from:


Moonstone Silhouettes by R J Dent is available from: