Thursday, December 1, 2011

Quotes from Baudelaire's "The Painter of Modern Life"

In Charles Baudelaire, a flâneur is a man who walks the city in order to experience it. Because of the term's usage and theorization by Baudelaire and numerous thinkers in economic, cultural, literary and historical fields, the idea of a flâneur has accumulated significant meaning as a referent for understanding the urban phenomena and modernity.

It is perhaps in his 1964 book The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays that the flâneur comes to life, and is understood as someone who experiences the city while being incognito. In other words, this passionate observer is at the very center of the world, and is yet unseen of the world.

Some quotations:

On the passionate idler:
For the perfect idler, for the passionate observer, it becomes an immense source of enjoyment to establish his dwelling in the throng, in the ebb and flow, the bustle, the fleeting and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel at home anywhere; to see the world, to be at the very center of the world, and yet to be unseen of the world. Such are some of the minor pleasures of those independent, intense and impartial spirits, who do not lend themselves easily to linguistic definitions. 
On childhood recaptured at will:
But genius is no more than childhood recaptured at will, childhood equipped now with man's physical means to express itself, and with the analytical mind that enables it to bring order into the sum of experience, involuntarily amassed.
On the cup of oblivion:
But the evening comes. The witching hour, the uncertain light, when the sky draws its curtains and the city lights go on. The gaslight stands out on the purple background of the setting sun. Honest men or crooked customers, wise of irresponsible, all are saying to themselves: 'The day is gone at last!". Good men and bad turn their thoughts to pleasure, and each hurries to his favorite haunt to drink the cup of oblivion. 



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