A guide with soles of wind François Allard

Speaker-guide at the Charleville-Mézières Tourist Office, François Allard recounts Rimbaud’s childhood and adolescence across his most emblematic sites.

  • Does a Rimbaud cult following still exist today?

“All year long, we do indeed welcome “Rimbaldiens” who have sometimes come from very far away: Korea, Japan, the US, Latin America… It’s an odd audience, often Francophile, and not necessarily made up of a great literati, but rather people intrigued by this life outside of norms, this “alien” that revolutionised French poetry, when neither his family situation, nor his environment, nor his times had predestined him to that.”

  • What are fans looking for?

“They love little anecdotes. For example, Rimbaud arriving late to school for an essay test and still managing to hand in a copy in French and in Latin that got the highest mark. Or when Rimbaud “ran off” to Paris without paying for the train and ended up in prison as a result. Visitors also love to discover the places where Rimbaud wrote the major part of his texts, like the banks of the Meuse.

At the cemetery, you sometimes find bottles of absinthe or scribbled messages to him left on his grave. Rimbaud also gets a lot of mail, a bit like Father Christmas! All these letters are carefully kept and displayed in the museum.”

  • Is it fair to say that Charleville-Mézières has rediscovered Rimbaud?

“Rimbaud wasn’t always affectionate of his town, which was industrial and bourgeois, and he had for a long time been persona non grata. It’s fair to say  that he was restored to favour after the Second World War, and especially from the 1960s on.

Documents relating to him still continue to be discovered today: the local paper in which in 1870 he published a text of 10 lines on Bismarck under a pseudonym, and more recently a photo of him, although some contest that it’s really of him.”

Informations :
Office de tourisme de Charleville-Mézières
4, place Ducale
Tél. : +33 (0)3 24 55 69 90
www.charleville-mezieres.org