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Rimbaud the Explorer

Christie’s South Kensington - 85 Old Brompton Road, London SW7 3LD


The celebrated French poet Arthur Rimbaud was extraordinary for the fact that he effectively lived two different lives. First, as a ground-breaking poet, and later as an adventurer and explorer. Between 1874 and 1877 he was at sea or on the road for some twenty-one months, visiting thirteen countries and covering more than 30,000 miles. From 1880 until his death in 1891, he spent most of his time as a trader and gun-runner in the Horn of Africa, including long periods in Aden and the ‘forbidden city’ of Harar in Abyssinia (modern Ethiopia).


This event, hosted by Christie’s, focused on Rimbaud’s second life as an explorer. The distinguished author and biographer Charles Nicholl, whose ground-breaking study Somebody Else was the first to examine in detail Rimbaud’s time in Africa, discussed the poet’s travels and the apparent divide between his early life as a poet and later life as a merchant and adventurer.


Charles’s talk was accompanied by readings of Rimbaud’s letters and poems in both French and English translations. Participants also had a unique opportunity to view a selection of original documents relating to Rimbaud, Verlaine and Mallarmé that will feature in Christie’s sale of La collection littéraire d'Edouard-Henri Fischer in Paris on 4 November.

Capacity at this venue is limited, so please reserve your place soon to avoid disappointment. Bookings can be made via Eventbrite at