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Five Days in Brussels with Charles Baudelaire

Five Days in Brussels with Charles Baudelaire is now available for purchase.

Five Days in Brussels with Charles BaudelaireIn the fall of 1864 Georges Barral's job brings him to Belgium, where he meets and befriends the author of Les Fleurs du mal. Over the next five days, Barral listens as Baudelaire expounds on a variety of subjects, including the merits of his pet bat, Burgundy wines, ginger bread, and the proper preparation of an omelette. The French poet also discusses his feelings for Victor Hugo, Napoléon, and the Académie Française.

During their time together, Baudelaire and Barral travel to see the battlefield at Waterloo, accompany Félix Nadar and Dumas fils on a visit to a brothel, and tour Brussels' lower town, where they stop to contemplate Manneken Pis. This account first appeared as a series of articles in Le Petit Bleu magazine.

When Barral died in Brussels in 1913, he left his notes to the Belgian poet and professor Maurice Kunel, who republished them in 1932 as Cinq journées avec Charles Baudelaire à Bruxelles.

This is the first time the memoir has been translated into English.

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More than 150 years have past since Les Fleurs du mal was published and Baudelaire's poetry is still being censored.

Last year, reported that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATF) had prevented Bordeaux wine merchant Guillaume de Tastes from exporting to the United States. He had included an excerpt from Baudelaire's poem L'Âme du vin (The Soul of Wine) on the label of his Château Haut Gay, and the American authorities banned the product on the grounds that the the text was "an incentive to debauchery".

The two offending verses, translated by William Aggeler:

One night, the soul of wine was singing in the flask:
O man, dear disinherited! to you I sing
This song full of light and of brotherhood
From my prison of glass with its scarlet wax seals

Vegetal ambrosia, precious grain scattered
By the eternal Sower, I shall descend in you
So that from our love there will be born poetry,
Which will spring up toward God like a rare flower!

In the soon-to-be released Obolus Press translation of Georges Barral's Five Days in Brussels with Charles Baudelaire, the poet doesn't drink any Bordeaux, but does enjoy several bottles of Pommard and Corton.

"Wine is like the sun!," says Baudelaire. "It is the father of all civilizations! It is what has made France!" He also recommends eating gingerbread alongside burgundy on the grounds that it brings out the wine's heady fragrance.