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Fiction Contemporary Women

The Baudelaire Fractal

by (author) Lisa Robertson

narrator Allegra Fulton

Coach House Books
Initial publish date
Jan 2020
Contemporary Women, Magical Realism, Literary
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2020
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jan 2020
    List Price
  • Downloadable audio file

    Publish Date
    Apr 2021
    List Price

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The debut novel by acclaimed poet Lisa Robertson, in which a poet realizes she's written the works of Baudelaire.

One morning, Hazel Brown awakes in a badly decorated hotel room to find that she’s written the complete works of Charles Baudelaire. In her bemusement the hotel becomes every cheap room she ever stayed in during her youthful perambulations in 1980s Paris. This is the legend of a she-dandy’s life.

Part magical realism, part feminist ars poetica, part history of tailoring, part bibliophilic anthem, part love affair with nineteenth-century painting, The Baudelaire Fractal is poet and art writer Lisa Robertson’s first novel.


About the authors

Lisa Robertson is a Canadian poet and essayist currently living in France. Born in Toronto in 1961, she was a longtime resident of Vancouver, where in the early 90s she began writing, publishing and collaborating in a community of artists and poets that included Artspeak Gallery and The Kootenay School of Writing. She has continued these activities for 30 years, publishing books, leaflets and posters, translating poetry and linguistics from French, lecturing and teaching internationally, and continuing her ongoing study into the political constitution of lyric voice. In 2017 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Letters by Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and in 2018, the Foundation for the Contemporary Arts in NY awarded her the inaugural CD Wright Award in Poetry. She has taught at Cambridge University, Princeton, UC Berkeley, California College of the Arts, Piet Zwart Institute, Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics and American University of Paris, as well as holding research and residency positions at institutions across Canada, the US, and Europe.

Lisa Robertson's profile page

Allegra Fulton's profile page


  • Short-listed, Governor General’s Literary Award Fiction

Editorial Reviews

"A difficult work of ideas, by turns enlightening and arcane, part autobiographical narrative, part literary theory, Robertson’s debut novel, for those interested in possibilities of fiction, is not to be missed."—Publishers Weekly

"Robertson’s work offers a philosophical defence of the girl, a celebration of the menopausal dandy, a speculative release from the constraints of gender, and a portrait of reading as drifting." – Andrea Brady, London Review of Books

"As far as I’m concerned, it’s already a classic." —Anne Boyer

"Robertson, with feminist wit, a dash of kink, and a generous brain, has written an urtext that tenders there can be, in fact, or in fiction, no such thing. Hers is a boon for readers and writers, now and in the future." - Jennifer Krasinski, Bookforum

"And perhaps that's what Robertson, with this demanding, erudite, and quite remarkable novel, is telling us is required to return those who have been expunged from the pages of literature: time and effort."—Stephen Finucan, Quill & Quire

"An intense if abstract portrait of the poet as a young woman in search of a kind of language that might lead to liberation."—The Kirkus Reviews

"It’s brilliant, strange, and unlike anything I’ve read before."—Rebecca Hussey, BOOKRIOT

"Things happen in the novel but none so much as the sentences themselves, they are the events; each sentence invites mediation, pause, excitement."—Allison Grimaldi Donahue, BOMB Magazine

"A new Lisa Robertson book is both a public event and a private kind of bacchanal." —Los Angeles Review of Books

"Often reading a novel, even a good novel, feels like falling into a well-worn groove. There can be comfort in that. This is a different thing entirely. Ironic for a book that works by repetition: The Baudelaire Fractal is a novel you haven’t read before." - The Globe and Mail

"Robertson, one of Canada’s best and most innovative authors, thus cleaves close to Baudelaire’s own dictum: "Always be a poet, even in prose." - Winnipeg Free Press

"The Baudelaire Fractal is a book readers—certainly this reader—will continue returning to for its hypnotic narrative architecture, its portrayal of female ambition and courage, and its inner flint of artistic permission." - The Puritan

"The fabric of “The Baudelaire Fractal”—and it is most definitely a fabric, not just text but textile—is no less yours because it was thrifted. Learn to live in it. You won’t regret it, despite the lingering scent of shed self." - Newfound

"The overall effect is an augmented complexity, unrelated to progress, expansion or growth, in our understanding of artistic lineage, history and subjectivity itself." - MAP Magazine

"The Baudelaire Fractal doesn’t resemble a novel in most of its traditional senses, though the classification doesn’t really matter. Robertson bends the form to her will, and the result is captivating even as it tends towards abstraction." - Entropy Magazine

"A semi-autobiographical novel that blends elements of fiction, poetry, and cultural criticism, The Baudelaire Fractal explores what it means to be an author and a figure of authority, as well as how the Western literary canon and preconceptions about gender can limit who is recognized as a writer by society at large." - PRISM International

"This is a novel that, though its means are singular, will open and salvage possible worlds—above all, for writers, who perhaps will one day look back at their younger selves with an air of indulgence and find they were reading Lisa Robertson." - Music & Literature

"I want to spend many hours tracing the rapture of this book, as well as its seductions." - Spam Zine

"Everything becomes a form of writing, a code. Like the dispersed 'I' of the 'girl,' writing itself is both absent and multiplex, 'lost and grotesquely multiple'." - Cleveland Review of Books

"Above all, however, this book is governed by a poetic. The more you pursue it, the more you will find it to be unreadable, which is to say inexhaustible." - The Capilano Review

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