Disaster Was My God by Bruce Duffy
A Novel of the Outlaw Life of Arthur Rimbaud

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The author of the critically acclaimed novel The World as I Found It brilliantly reimagines the scandalous life of the pioneering, proto-punk poet Arthur Rimbaud.

Arthur Rimbaud, the enfant terrible of French letters, more than holds his own with Lord Byron and Oscar Wilde in terms of bold writing and salacious interest. In the space of one year—1871—with a handful of startling poems he transformed himself from a teenaged bumpkin into the literary sensation of Paris. He was taken up, then taken in, by the older and married poet Paul Verlaine in a passionate affair. When Rimbaud sought to end it, Verlaine, in a jeal­ous rage, shot him. Shortly thereafter, Rimbaud—just shy of his twentieth birthday—declared himself finished with literature. His resignation notice was his immortal prose poem A Season in Hell. In time, Rimbaud wound up a pros­perous trader and arms dealer in Ethiopia. But a cancerous leg forced him to return to France, to the family farm, with his sister and loving but overbearing mother. He died at thirty-seven.

Bruce Duffy takes the bare facts of Rimbaud’s fascinating existence and brings them vividly to life in a story rich with people, places, and paradox. In this unprecedented work of fictional biography, Duffy conveys, as few ever have, the inner turmoil of this calculating genius of outrage, whose work and untidy life essentially anticipated and created the twentieth century’s culture of rebellion. It helps us see why such protean rock figures as Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, and Patti Smith adopted Rimbaud as their idol.

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About Bruce Duffy

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Bruce Duffy is the author of the autobiographical novel Last Comes the Egg (1997), and-to appear June 2011-Disaster Was My God, a novel based on the life and work of the poet Arthur Rimbaud. An only child raised in a Catholic middle-class family in suburban Maryland, Duffy sees the 1962 death of his mother-essentially by medical malpractice- as what pushed him to be a writer. Duffy graduated from the University of Maryland in 1973, and has hitchhiked twice across the United States, worked construction, washed dishes, hopped freight trains with hoboes, and reported stories that have taken him to Haiti, Bosnia, and Taliban Afghanistan. Today he lives just outside Washington, D.C., works as a speechwriter, is married to a psychotherapist, and has two grown daughters and a stepson. Writing in Salon, Joyce Carol Oates named The World As I Found It as one of "five great nonfiction novels," calling it "one of the most ambitious first novels ever published." A former Guggenheim fellow, Duffy has won the Whiting Writers' Award and a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Award. David Leavitt 's books include The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the Invention of the Computer and the novel The Indian Clerk, a finalist for both the PEN/Faulkner Prize and the IMPAC /Dublin Literary Award. He co-directs the MFA program in Creative Writing at the University of Florida.Bruce Duffy was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Irish American parents. His novels include The World as I Found It and Last Comes the Egg. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Award, and the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Award. He lives in Maryland.
Published July 19, 2011 by Anchor. 386 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Disaster Was My God

Publishers Weekly

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Having already fictionalized the life of Ludwig Wittgenstein (The World as I Found It), Duffy now sets his sights on Arthur Rimbaud, who, as a teenager, caused a scandal in Paris with his decadent poe

Apr 11 2011 | Read Full Review of Disaster Was My God: A Novel ...

The New York Times

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In his historical novel, “Disaster Was My God,” Bruce Duffy imagines why the youthful genius Rimbaud gave up the literary life.

Aug 23 2011 | Read Full Review of Disaster Was My God: A Novel ...


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Alan Cheuse reviews a novel based on the real life of the French poet Arthur Rimbaud, called Disaster Was My God.

Aug 16 2011 | Read Full Review of Disaster Was My God: A Novel ...

The Washington Times

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At 15, he was considered a genius, "model-meek and compliant - eerily so." At 17, his poetry shocked and dazzled the French literary world; at 21, he had stopped writing; at 37, he was dead. Every French-speaking student studies the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud and is familiar with his scandalous lov...

Mar 20 2012 | Read Full Review of Disaster Was My God: A Novel ...

The Telegraph

This week, he recalls John Berryman's unfinished .

Nov 25 2011 | Read Full Review of Disaster Was My God: A Novel ...

The Bookbag

Duffy's triumph in recreating Mme Rimbaud is some senses swamps our vision of her son, just as his detailed account of Rimbaud's second Nemesis, the poet Verlaine, dominates this section of the novel.

Nov 12 2011 | Read Full Review of Disaster Was My God: A Novel ...

MostlyFiction Book Reviews

He builds his narrative on the premise that Rimbaud and his mother Vitalie had a love-hate relationship, a dynamic that spurred in Rimbaud both his creative life and his peripatetic life.

Oct 13 2011 | Read Full Review of Disaster Was My God: A Novel ...

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