Monday, 28 April 2014


Break on through to the other side...
(The Doors)

The main strand of Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion concerns Andrea Mann and her spiritual awakening. This self-awareness is forced into being by a series of events which may or may not be real. Andrea is tricked by Albert in various ways until she does not know what is true and what is not.

The inspiration for this aspect of the story comes from various sources. One source is Rimbaud’s own words regarding ‘the total derangement of all the senses’ which he believed (in his youth) was necessary both to obtain enlightenment and to become a poet:

I say one must be a seer, make oneself a seer.

The Poet makes himself a seer by a long, gigantic and rational derangement of all the senses. All forms of love, suffering, and madness. He searches himself. He exhausts all poisons in himself and keeps only their quintessences. Unspeakable torture where he needs all his faith, all his super-human strength, where he becomes among all men the great patient, the great criminal, the one accursed - and the supreme Scholar! - Because he reaches the unknown!
from Rimbaud's Letter to Paul Demeny 18711

Andrea’s sense of herself, her life and everyone she meets is fractured and distorted by Albert. His intention is that when she has been completely broken down, torn apart, destroyed, she can be put together again in some kind of better order.

Another source for this idea was my own life experience reinforced by various novels broadly working around similar topics. One of these—probably the main one—was The Magus by John Fowles. Another was The Chymical Wedding by Lindsay Clarke

Two of my previous novels have been based around the same idea: The Man with the Horn, which is a modern version of the ancient Dionysian rituals; and The Land Beyond Goodbye, set in the Northern Territory of Australia.

My own understanding of a mystic or ecstatic experience came after a period of darkness and distress and took the form of a sudden enlightenment - of being able to 'see' the truth behind mundane reality. I still don't know whether this was something real or simply an illusion brought on by my own disordering of the senses. I attempt to work out the answer to this conundrum in my writing (some of it anyway).

The mystic state is something many artists and writers have experienced or tried
Patti Smith & Rimbaud
Patti Smith & Rimbaud
to experience - from Jim Morrison to Van Morrison, from Walt Whitman to Bob Dylan to Russell Hoban to Vincent Van Gogh... the line is endless. It is a state some consider a form of madness - "Last night I was one with God," the woman says, and the psychiatrist thinks, "A possible schizophrenia."(Dana Wilde) - and others consider an essential step on the path to self-realisation.

For more information on the mystic state see Dana Wilde's website on Reading Mystical Literature.

"I promised I would drown myself in mystic heated wine..."  Jim Morrison

Jim Morrison - fan of Rimbaud
Jim Morrison - fan of Rimbaud


Saturday, 26 April 2014

Triskele Books Blog: World Book Night by Barbara Scott Emmett

A night of books and cake!

Triskele Books Blog: World Book Night by Barbara Scott Emmett: On Wednesday the Robinson Library (University of Newcastle upon Tyne) once again staged their regular Rainy Day Reads for World Book Night...

Monday, 21 April 2014

Inspiration for Rimbaud Novel - PART TWO

Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion


So, having had the first burst of inspiration re the potential discovery of La Chasse Sprituelle, (see last week's blog) I needed further aspects of the story I was to write.

I remembered an incident that happened some time ago in Berlin. I was in the park near Zoo with my Nigerian friend, Bowale, and we got talking to a wild-eyed young man who told us he was under the control of a magician. We went with him to his apartment for coffee but couldn’t stay long in case his magician friend came home.
Manuscript of Voyelles by Rimbaud.
Rimbaud Manuscript

The boy told us this mysterious man had a knack of tapping his —the boy’s— forehead and singing a jingle to control him. He would develop a headache and do what the man instructed. Though he appeared terrified, he refused to leave this maleficent puppet-master.

I was never sure whether this story had any truth in it or whether it was simply the deranged ramblings of a somewhat confused youth, but the idea stuck with me. 

Another What if?

What if it was true and he was being controlled by a powerful Trickster?  

Here was an incident that was a gift for a novelist and I never forgot it. It has rolled around my subconcious for years waiting for the right literary vehicle to come along. When I started writing the Rimbaud novel it hitched a ride - a ride that seemed a perfect fit.

So, out of a chance encounter half a lifetime ago in a park in Berlin, sprang Albert the Magician and Rimboy his protégé.

And another part of Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion took shape.


Next week - Part Three: Break on through to the other side...

Arthur Rimbaud from a painting by Henri Fantin-Latour.

Monday, 14 April 2014



I need to go back a long way to find the original inspiration because the seeds of that would have been planted the day I first encountered Rimbaud.

Paul Verlaine & Arthur RimbaudAn exhibition in the foyer of UCL – the story of a house in Camden Town and the two scruffy French poets who lived there for a few months a hundred years before. Rimbaud and Verlaine – what a pair of starcrossed lovers they were.

Without knowing anything much about Rimbaud, and without ever having read a line of his poetry, I fell in love with him. At first it was his life that intrigued me; his poetry came later.

So, thirty years later, having read as many books about him as I could find, having pored over his poetry, having visited his home town of Charleville, the idea for Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion came to me.

It was a What if? story.

The French Poets Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud lived here May-July 1873.An intriguing aspect of the tale of Rimbaud’s life and works was the reference to a missing manuscript. La Chasse Spirituelle – one of Rimbaud’s best poems according to Verlaine – had been lost for well over a century.

What if someone found it?

This was my starting point. My protagonist, Andrea Mann, goes to Rimbaud’s home town in northern France because she (like me) is obsessed by the boy poet. There she meets a youth who claims to have a copy of La Chasse Spirituelle.

Andrea is intrigued. What if he’s telling the truth?

What if?

And so it began.

I wrote the first chapter of Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion and the novel was born.

Next week - Part Two: Where the inspiration for Albert, The Magician came from.

Read more about Rimbaud & Verlaine in Camden Town in The Kentishtowner.

8 Royal (Great) College Street, Camden, London
8 Royal College Street