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Culture

Gun drama between French poets Verlaine and Rimbaud focus of Brussels expo

media Original manuscript of "Cellulairement" © mlmb.be

A new exhibition at the Museum of Letters and Manuscripts in Brussels brings to life a drunken argument in the Belgian capital, during which Paul Verlaine shot his lover Arthur Rimbaud twice.

Using manuscripts, legal documents, photos and drawings from the time, the “Verlaine Imprisoned” exhibition throws light on the events on 10 July 1873, which left Rimbaud slightly injured.

Verlaine was tried over the incident in Belgium and sentenced to two years in prison, where he wrote the collection of poetry entitled “Cellulairement”.

“Cellulairement” is the work of an incarcerated man, who is not declaiming his poetry in the gilded salons of the second empire, but who sometimes writes them with matches dipped in coffee, on scrap paper in the sordid environment of a prison”, explains Jean-Pierre Guéno in his book, published to complement the exhibition.

In his prison cell, Verlaine “rediscovers the path of his soul and the way of grace and faith” says Guéno.

The original manuscript of Cellulairement, a national treasure belonging to the French state, is on display at the exhibition, as well as the legal file concerning the case, and several documents signed by Verlaine and Rimbaud.

A number of canvasses and drawings are also on view, such as Jean Cocteau’s “Portrait of Rimbaud on his hospital bed.”

The exhibition runs in Brussels until 13 January, at the Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits, and will open in Paris on 8 February until 5 May
 

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