: Baudelaire: Avatar for an Age of Avatars :
an excerpt by Hugh Graham
Watching the corrupt financier Bernard Madoff escorted about New York on bail last year, you had the impression of a man to whom the ruin of people's lives meant nothing except that he had been caught. Around the same time, George W. Bush gave a farewell address with cheerful indifference to the disasters which stigmatized his administration. After a total market collapse caused by surprisingly widespread wrongdoing, you were forced, at the last extreme, to wonder about human nature. And yet, for all the iniquity, few words still seem as alien as those of Baudelaire: "As sin is everywhere, so is redemption and so is myth. There is nothing more cosmopolitan than the Eternal." But of course the eternity of sin assumes a rich and dark relevance as never before and the poet of Flowers of Evil, were he alive, with his prophetic gaze and a mouth bitten and crooked from grief, would find much wrong in our time that he had found in his own.