This is a skilfully imagined novel based on the scandalous and astonishing life of the pioneering, proto-punk poet Arthur Rimbaud. In the space of one year, 1871, with a handful of startling poems, Arthur Rimbaud transformed himself from a teenaged bumpkin into the literary sensation of Paris. He was taken in, then taken up, by the older, married poet Paul Verlaine in a passionate affair. When Rimbaud sought to end it, Verlaine, in a jealous rage, shot him. Shortly thereafter, just shy of his twentieth birthday, Rimbaud declared himself finished with literature. His resignation notice was his immortal prose poem "A Season in Hell". In time, Rimbaud became 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 aged 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. He conveys, as few ever have, the inner turmoil of this calculating genius of outrage, whose work and untidy life did much to anticipate the twentieth century's culture of rebellion.
Praise for "Disaster Was My God" "There are many lovely touches in Duffy's novel. ... [He] persuasively penetrates the layers of myth and produces characters who suggest the real people they once were. By far the most impressive - and, in its way, the most moving of these characterizations is that of Rimbaud's mother, who here emerges not as the familiar harpy of many biographies but as a figure of almost tragic stature, a woman as tormented as she was tormenting." - Daniel Mendelsohn, "The New Yorker" "Mr. Duffy's take on the Rimbaud mystery shapes a novel that...pleases. [His] hyperbolic prose style...grows on you. ... "Disaster Was My God" delivers a Rimbaud who forces literary true believers to ponder an unwelcome thought: that artistic ambition may sometimes be, as the guidance counselors say, just a phase that troubled teens even geniuses go through." - Carlin Romano, "New York Times"
Bruce Duffy is the author of the The World As I Found It, a fictional life of Ludwig Wittgenstein and Last Comes The Egg. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland.