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Charles Baudelaire. Pauvre Belgique

Broodthaers, Marcel

Brussels. Daled, Gevaert & Lebeer. 1974
An excellent copy of Marcel Broodthaers' scarce gnomic artist book based on Charles Baudelaire's criticism of Belgium.

From the edition limited to 44 copies on papier d'épreuve, with this one of 40 numbered examples, signed and dated 'Bruxelles, le 26 Septembre 74. M. B.'and numbered by Broodthaers in black ink; four lettered copies were also issued.

In this artist book, like others in Broodthaers' oeuvre - Dumas' 'Vingt Ans Après' or the words of Mallarmé for 'Un Coup de Dès N'abolira Jamais le Hasard' - Broodthaers' concern is with and of a found text. Charles Baudelaire's highly critical 'Pauvre Belgique' was begun in June 1864 but was never published during his lifetime (extracts were issued in 1887 in 'Le Progrès') and did not appear until 1952. Scathing in regard to Belgium, its people, their habits and outlook, Baudelaire's text has been assumed to reflect more on his own state of mind and misery than on Belgium itself but it certainly appears that Broodthaers' choice of text indicates a certain seriousness in his own attitude to it.

In Broodthaers' version, Charles Baudelaire remains the author, the title remains the same and the work gives every appearance of being a large paper reprint of the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade edition of Baudelaire's 'Oeuvres Complètes' (or at least a part of it) complete with the title in red and black, the vignette of Baudelaire nand even the paper used. That appearance dissolves when one turns the pages further, only to find that although each page includes the frame of the original, the page number and the running headline, the text has been removed in its entirety; the nullification continues throughout, even to the final page (also in red and black) listing other works issued by the Bibliothèque de la Pléaide. In addition, although the front and rear covers are printed with the titles as per the book, Broodthaers has added a glassine jacket with a central printed title of its own 'ABCABCABCABCA' which, when in place, effaces the title of Baudelaire's work. Broodthaers' final flourish is to give the book fictitious places of publication: Paris for the front cover, New York for the rear; the book was, as per the justification, printed at the expense of ('pour le compte de') Herman Daled, Yves Gevaert and Paul Lebeer, all three resident in Brussels.

'L'on ne peut définir ce livre comme une contrefaçon / telle qu'elle fut d'usage courant chez les éditeurs bruxellois / pendant la période romantique. / Si contrefaçon, il y a, elle se trouve être une référence / dont la forme particulière renvoie aux polémiques actuelles / dépassant un cadre géographique précis. / C'est tout au moins, ce que j'ai visé.' (Marcel Broodthaers 'NOTE' to the justification).

[Jamar 42; Werner 19; Ceuleers 43; see Artists Who Make Books pp. 51 - 52].
[76 leaves]. Small folio. (325 x 250 mm). Blank leaf, leaf with reproduction in red and black with vignette portrait of the title of Baudelaire's 'Oeuvres Complètes', leaf with section title 'Sur la Belgique', leaf with printed frame reproducing the page size of Baudelaire's 'Oeuvres Complètes' with subtitle 'Pauvre Belgique' recto, verso with reproduction of page 1318 of same with frame and headline 'Pauvre Belgique' and without text and 70 leaves (pp. 1319 - 1457) with frame and headline 'De la Belgique' recto and 'Pauvre Belgique' verso, all without text, final leaf with list of works by the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade verso, blank leaf and final leaf with 'Note' and justification. Original publisher's white printed wrappers with titles in black to front and rear covers, Broodthaers' copyright to inner rear wrapper, additional semi-opaque glassine jacket with printed titles 'ABCABCABCABCA' masking the title 'PAUVRE BELGIQUE' of the wrappers.

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