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Sunday September 24, 2017
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Bruce Duffy

 

continued

it up in disgust; at age twenty-one he went off to the Horn of Africa to work as a colonial trader. He died of a painful and lingering cancer at thirty-seven, hearing vague rumors that the things he'd written as an adolescent were reshaping and expanding the range of French literature. He wished he'd burned them all.

Much of this story is well known and has become part of the formative myth of modern literature. Now Bruce Duffy has taken this material to make his most recent novel, Disaster Was My God. Duffy has written biographical fiction before: his wonderfully smart The World As I Found It told of the life of Ludwig Wittgenstein and along the way became a useful introduction to that difficult and elusive philosopher. It seems likely that this new novel, equally ambitious in its engagement with difficult material, might do the same thing for new readers of Rimbaud's poetry.

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