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Maldoror & the Complete Works of the Comte de Lautréamont [Paperback]

Comte de Lautréamont , Alexis Lykiard
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 30 2010
André Breton described Maldoror as "the expression of a revelation so complete it seems to exceed human potential." Little is known about its pseudonymous author, aside from his real name (Isidore Ducasse), birth in Uruguay (1846) and early death in Paris (1870). Lautréamont bewildered his contemporaries, but the Surrealists modeled their efforts after his black humor and poetic leaps of logic, exemplified by the oft-quoted line, "As beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella." Maldoror 's shocked first publisher refused to bind the sheets of the original edition--and perhaps no better invitation exists to this book, which warns the reader, "Only the few may relish this bitter fruit without danger." This is the only complete annotated collection of Lautréamont's writings available in English, in Alexis Lykiard's superior translation. For this latest edition, Lykiard updates his introduction to include recent scholarship.

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"Alexis Lykiard’s translation is both subtle and earthy… this is the best translation now available." -- Washington Post Book World

"Lautréamont’s style is hallucinatory, visionary… this new fluent translation makes clear its poetic texture and what may be termed its subversive attraction." -- New York Times

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Customer Reviews

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Dark Side April 22 2003
"Maldoror" is a very curious piece of fiction - at times a difficult and disturbing read. The style is non-linear: indeed what there might be of a plot is difficult to discern. But plot does not seem to be the point of the book. Rather, it's a fluid, non-temporal examination of the baseness of humanity. I was interested in the novel despite, not because of, the style in which it is written, and for that purely subjective reason alone I've dropped a star from my rating.
That being said, once you get used to Lautreamont's writing, there's much of interest. The creature (or metaphor?) Maldoror upturns moral decency and socially "acceptable" behaviour to glory in thinking the unthinkable and doing the undoable, never fearing to go beyond what would be termed "common decency". The result is rather like asking what would things be like if humanity divested itself of all moral values, allowing individuals a totally hedonistic and self-indulgent life, in effect acting like animals (which is what Maldoror states they really are).
Lautreamont does not fail to debunk the notion of a benevolent all-wise God - if all moral values are inverted, then the puported source of such ideas is open to attack too.
"Maldoror" is a strange, yet challenging work. I can well understand why it's widely admired in some quarters, its fascination flowing from its shameless disposal of social norms and mores. Perhaps in the end it reinforces the need for them - seeing the dark side might be a sobering experience.
G Rodgers
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars minor flaws, but the best translation available Oct. 1 2003
As English editions of 'Les chants de Maldoror' go, this is the best translation available today. Don't bother with the Wernham- the language is stilted and captures little of the book's fury that is driven equally by content and by its linguistic style. Because I am in the process of a new translation myself, I am perhaps overly critical. That said, avoid the Wernham.. Lykiard has a far better sense of Lautréamont's poetic project and includes appendices that are truly helpful. For the moment, I think that this is the best bet for English readers. (And yes, the book is incredible, the four stars are for the translation not for the book itself, which defies comparison: a contemporary of Baudelaire, Lautréamont/Ducasse is usually given more credit as a ranting eccentric than a prodigious poet. Later cited by the Surrealists as an important influence, I consider this work to be far more complex and original than the majority of the Surrealist's own work. For an interesting theoretical study of the book, try Alex de Jonge's 'Nightmare Culture' or Paul Zweig's "Lautréamont: The Violent Narcissus'.)
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5.0 out of 5 stars a disturbing, twisted work of absolute genius Nov. 6 2001
"maldoror" is one of the most intriguing, weird little books i've ever read. every surrealism fiend (like myself) should buy numerous copies of this book. lautreamont advances on every form of authority and convention with an aggressiveness and deadly seriousness that would have made jim morrison shudder, and we find ourselves shivering during parts of this dark but beautiful pearl of a book. maldoror, the outcast monster, is perhaps every alienated person we have scorned and ostracized because of their individuality or uniqueness. he is a furious and vicious being of total revolt, and by the end of this strangely dreamlike, automatic text, we have seen every barrier of civilization and every moral that lays the foundation of society trampled and spat upon. look especially for the scene where maldoror guns down some swimmers in the ocean and then proceeds to have sex with a whale. (i wonder if he wrapped it up!) when andre breton said this book seemed to exceed the limits of human capacity, he wasn't joking. if you're a misanthrope and a disaffected weirdo like myself, you simply cannot miss this. a sometimes startling yet essential celebration of ultimate freedom and absolute rebellion.
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5.0 out of 5 stars My Bible June 26 2000
This book is a must-read for all misanthropes! With a nightmarish pre-surrealist quality the author paints various macabre poems in prose around the central figure, Maldoror, a being who rejects the human society to which he cannot belong, and who blames its Creator for all suffering. It is a love/hate poem/novel with the world and with the burden of existence. Very stong and surprising dark imagination! Wild exotic phenomena of science, the naive and crude intensity of adolescence, the savagery of nature and its animals, the juxtaposition of conflicting logic and anti-logic and mind-bending sensory imagery. This book is my bible. The author's work greatly influenced the Dadaists and surrealists who later wrote after WWI. I am presently translating the Entire book in Esperanto: .............................
"A sole few will savour this bitter fruit without danger."
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"The Songs of Maldoror" is not a book--it is a searing, rambling, poisonous "derangement of all the senses" in masquerade. After more than a century it still has the power to shock, startle and repulse. Precisely imagined, "Maldoror" is a fairly obscure classic of late 19th century French literature, and is on par with Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine, Mallarme, etc. You must read this if you love those writers!
Maldoror is the narrator, and sometime character when the narrative shifts unexpectedly into third person, and the alter ego of the mysterious young Comte de Lautreamont--which was the pen name of Isidore Ducasse. Dead by 24, he left behind this time-bomb. Maldoror is a sadist, a murderer, a philosopher, an outcast from the normal order of life. He encourages readers to kidnap a child and torture it, to taste its tears and its blood--all within the first 30 pages. Right on! You are not dealing with a rational, predictable mind here.
One of the book's most fascinating aspects is its continuous imagery of animals, both everyday and exotic, majestic and absurd: sharks, turkeys, crabs, eagles, octopi, tigers, wovles, insects, serpents. These creatures are presented with the sharp eye of the biologist. By likening humanity to animals, Lautreamont achieves a double effect: man comes off as debased and at the same time, elevated: to be like an animal man must be rid of all his pretensions and vanities. It is this pretense to culture and civilized behavior that sicken Lautreamont/Maldoror.
Many passsages still shock and disgust--and yes, entertain with their feverish intensity, particularly the one in which Maldoror copulates with a man-eating shark.
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