The Baudelaire Fractal
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“While a man in a hotel is in a crematorium, or in the negative image of a church ..., a girl in her hotel is free. I want to claim this word free for myself and I intend to use it wrongly very often. Here by free I mean that nothing is meant for her. She is outside history, outside poetry, outside theology, outside thought, outside money. Therefore she should claim anything: this was the fundamental recognition of my youthful travels. Freedom must be wrongly performed or it will be irrelevant. So I went to my hotel as Descartes withdrew to his Dutch chamber, in order to begin thought wrongly, to throw everything away because I wanted to begin.”
One morning, the poet Hazel Brown wakes up in a strange hotel room to find that she’s written the complete works of Charles Baudelaire. Surprising as this may be, it’s no more surprising to Brown than the impossible journey she’s taken to become the writer that she is. Animated by the spirit of the poète maudit, she shuttles between London, Vancouver, Paris, and the French countryside, moving fluidly between the early 1980s and the present, from rented room to rented room, all the while considering such Baudelairian obsessions as modernity, poverty, and the perfect jacket. Part memoir, part magical realism, part hilarious trash-talking take on contemporary art and the poet’s life, The Baudelaire Fractal is the long-awaited debut novel by the inimitable Lisa Robertson. [publisher’s note]