iPlayer Radio What's New?
On Now : In Tune
Playing: Cello Concerto - 4th mvt by Edward Elgar
Image for A Season in Hell

Sorry, this episode is not currently available on BBC iPlayer Radio

A Season in Hell

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 14 November 2009

"Une Saison en Enfer" was written between April and August 1873 in London and France, when the eighteen-year-old Rimbaud was in the throes of an intense, transgressive and destructive relationship with Verlaine. It's one of the most remarkable pieces of prose poetry ever written; a mixture of autobiography and enigmatic dream sequence in which Rimbaud looks back in despair over his life as a poet. It combines lucid self-appraisal with demented vision and moves with extraordinary agility between hyper-realism and hallucinatory surrealism; in its synthesis of sounds, colours, odours and intensely visual images it one of the highest achievements of symbolist writing. The twenty-five pages of 'A Season in Hell', here cut to a third of its length, are both a staggering testimony to and a tortured recantation of Rimbaud's poetic credo, the 'disordering of all the senses'. Narrated by Carl Prekopp.
Composer Elizabeth Purnell has created a soundscape for the work which includes composed music, field recordings and processed sound in a raw response to the words. She set the poems specifically for Robert Wyatt whose voice in its high, delicate register suggests a beyond-the-grave alter-ego to the young Rimbaud. This version is a fierce abridgement of the original, but offers a startling insight into its power and beauty. It contains some language that might now give offence. Producer Sara Davies.



  1. Image for Between The Ears: Adventures in  Radio

    Between The Ears: Adventures in Radio

    Innovative and thought-provoking features, that make adventurous use of sound, explore a wide …

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss