Flowers of Evil, The

baudelaire flowers of evil

The Flowers of Evil & Artificial Paradise
by Charles Baudelaire
Translated by R J Dent

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 milennium’.

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, yet also very daring. I now understand these contradictions, if that’s what they are.

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, and although it had its attractions, I couldn’t wait to get back to Baudelaire’s Paris. The translation process 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 also enjoyed translating the introductory essay by Guillaume Apollinaire, 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

The Flowers of Evil & Artificial Paradise can be ordered from Amazon at:



Details of this book and other works by R J Dent can be found at:









13 Responses to “Flowers of Evil, The”

  1. Flowers Says:

    I was unaware that this book existed – it was definitely time for a new translation of Baudelaire’s classic. I enjoyed some of your other posts – Ray Bradbury, Ayn Rand, David Bowie in particular. Very entertaining. Keep up the good work.

  2. Gilbert Gilbert Says:

    What a great poet Baudelaire is. I’ve ordered this book after I read the sample poems at:
    I love what you’ve done – how you’ve taken CB and made him so modern. I like your music posts too, especially The Doors and Jimi Hendrix.

  3. Del Masslin Says:

    I really enjoyed reading about this new book of Baudelaire poems. Thank you for providing this information. I had no idea there was a new translation.

  4. Dana Minton Says:

    i’ve bought and read this book. it’s great. it really is a modern, lucid, up to date translation. a new version of flowers of evil was long overdue, so well done for doing a great job with this translation.

  5. Ralph Burnett Says:

    Hi RJ, I just got this book as a present! Great work. Nice how you’ve dragged Baudelaire firmly in to the 21st Century. I wouldn’t have thought it could be done, but you’ve done it! Lovely poetry. Clear and lively translation.

  6. Andy Coulson Says:

    This book is a good place to start if you care about Baudelaire or French literature. I bought it off amazon – some good translations.

  7. Hypolyta Says:

    I second that

  8. Sally Godber Says:

    This is very good info about the most recent translation of Baudelaire’s classic work. I’ve read it. Scarfe’s translation is too dated; McGowan’s is crap; Martin’s is a joke; Howard’s is inaccurate. Yours is in the same league as Lerner’s, Campbell’s and Reed’s translations. Good work.

  9. Uri Onalin Says:

    I ordered your new Flowers of Evil and I liked reading it very much. It’s a v good version. What else are you translating?

  10. joseph armitage Says:

    this is a great book… you’ve really nailed Baudelaire’s voice and tone. It’s good you opted not to rhyme when that approach was needed. Your version’s become the definitive version. Love it!

  11. Alex Kitke Says:

    fleurs du mal, flowers of malevolence, Flowers of Evil, flowers of sickness, sickly flowers, opium poppies, petals, leaves, stems… love this book…

  12. Leon Aupick Says:

    Right! Can I get this now? Is it still available? And Artificial Paradise?

  13. lisa sellers Says:

    this is good – all of the flowers and a good version of artificial paradise too

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