Paris Spleen is a retelling of Les Fleurs du Mal in a more profound and elaborate manner. It’s more powerful with its touch on a wider range of themes. As in with Les Fleurs du Mal, pleasure, women, and intoxication, the causes of moral decadence are touched and elaborated. The artistry that was budding in the former work is fully realized in this work with the vagueness and mystery being replaced by more expression. But what makes Paris Spleen unique and stands apart from its predecessor is the picture of the daily city life of Paris that it paints through the 50 prose poems.
Baudelaire’s observations of contemporary Paris flow through these powerful vignettes. It was a time of social, cultural, and economic transformation. And Baudelaire’s pen exposed the human conditions and the human emotions of the people in this transformation period. With dark undertones, Baudelaire brings out the negative, the ugly aspect of things, that the city was eager to hide. And amidst all this change and progress, Baudelaire contemplates on one thing that the city seems to forget, which is human mortality.
Paris Spleen won my heart more than Les Fleurs du Mal. I did enjoy the mysterious and darker beauty of the latter but enjoyed more the open and communicative nature of the former. Out of his two celebrated works, I found Paris Spleen easier to connect with. His unmistakable sympathy for the unpleasant side of life was more positively and completely communicated through this bold collection.
Baudelaire is a gifted poet. He has the rare ability to make readers fall in love with the negative, the ugly, and the taboo. He tore the hypocritical veil of pretty verses and paved the way for realistic expression. In short, he exposed the truth of life, its nature, and its conditions in its true form.