The First Voyage…
Here on my blog it’s one thing to read or check out my work but as I have been doing now for some years I wish to share and explore the works of poets & writers whom I’ve labeled “Un-Sung Heroes”. Among these writers, musicians and poets in the past have been Steve Kilbey (Poet, Painter & Musician) of the band The Church, Michael Stanley (Musician), Aragon, Thomas Wolfe & many others In the future I now intend to explore more of the writings and poems of many other gifted writers of the past & the present, among them the American, British & French Surrealists and what have been referred to also as the “Vagabond Poets”Among them? Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud , The Marquis De Sade, Edgar Allan Poe & others such as Francois Villion, William Blake, Dante & Voltaire.
So to begin with, I have chosen Comte de Lautréamont whose real name was Isidore Ducasse, 1846–1870. Born in Montevideo, Uruguay, he moved to Paris in 1867, where he lived like a hermit until his death at the age of 24. In 1870 he published a volume of poetry, Poésies. He is best known for his only other work, Les Chants de Maldoror (1868, tr. 1943), a nightmarish epic poem replete with grotesque, often erotic, imagery. Because of his hallucinatory, nonrepresentational style, Lautréamont was viewed by the surrealists as a progenitor.”
Les Chants de Maldoror is a poem of six cantos which are subdivided into 60 verses of different length (I/14, II/16, III/5, IV/8, V/7, VI/10). The verses were originally not numbered, but rather separated by lines. The final eight verses of the last canto form a small novel, and were marked with Roman numerals. Each canto closes with a line to indicate its end.
It is difficult to summarize the work because it does not have specific plot in the traditional sense, and the narrative style is non-linear and often surrealistic. The work concerns the misanthropic character of Maldoror, a figure of absolute evil who is opposed to God and humanity, and has renounced conventional morality and decency. The iconoclastic imagery and tone is typically violent and macabre, and ostensibly nihilistic. Much of the imagery was borrowed from the popular gothic literature of the period, in particular Lord Byron’s Manfred, Charles Robert Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer and Goethe’s Faust. Of these figures, the latter two are particularly significant in their description of a negative and Satanic anti-hero who is in hostile opposition to God. The last eight stanzas of the final canto are in a way a small novel dealing with the seduction and murder of a youth.
At the beginning and end of the cantos, the text often refers to the work itself; Lautréamont also references himself in the capacity of the author of the work; Isidore is recognized as the “Montevidean”. In order to enable the reader to realise that he is embarking on a “dangerous philosophical journey”, Lautréamont uses stylistic means of identification with the reader, a procedure which author Baudelaire already used in his introduction of Les Fleurs du Mal. He also comments on the work, providing instructions for reading. The first sentence contains a “warning” to the reader.
Stanza 1: The Reader Forewarned
God grant that the reader, emboldened and having become at present as fierce as what he is reading, find, without loss of bearings, his way, his wild and treacherous passage through the desolate swamps of these sombre, poison-soaked pages; for, unless he should bring to his reading a rigorous logic and a sustained mental effort at least as strong as his distrust, the lethal fumes of this book shall dissolve his soul as water does sugar. It is not right that everyone read the pages that follow: a sole few will savour this bitter fruit without danger. As a result, wavering soul, before penetrating further into such uncharted barrens, draw back, step no deeper. Mark my words: draw back, step no deeper, like the eyes of a son respectfully flinching away from his mother’s august contemplation, or rather, like an acute angle formation of cold-sensitive cranes stretching beyond the eye can reach, soaring through the winter silence in deep meditation, under tight sail towards a focal point on the horizon, from where there suddenly rises a peculiar gust of wind, omen of a storm. The oldest crane, alone at the forefront, on seeing this, shakes his head like a rational person and consequently his beak too, which he clicks, as he is uneasy (and so would I be, in his shoes); whilst his old, feather-stripped neck, contemporary of three generations of cranes, sways in irritated undulations that foreshadow the oncoming thunderstorm. After looking with composure several times in every direction with eyes that bespeak experience, the first crane (for he is the privileged one to show his tail feathers to the other, intellectually inferior cranes) vigilantly cries out like a melancholy sentinel driving back the common enemy, and then carefully steers the nose of the geometric figure (it would be a triangle, but the third side, formed in space by these curious avian wayfarers, is invisible), be it to port, or to starboard, like a skilful captain; and, manoeuvring with wings that seem no larger than those of a sparrow, he thus adopts, since he is no dumb creature, a different and safer philosophical course.
– Isidore Lucien Ducasse.
Born April 4, 1846 in Montevideo, Uruguay
Residences: Paris, Tarbes, Pau, France, Montevideo, Uruguay,
Died November 24, 1870 in Paris, France
Little is known about Isidore Lucien Ducasse, who later took the pseudonym Le Comte de Lautreamont. He was born in Montevideo, Uruguay on April 4, 1846 to a French Consular Officer and his wife. His mother died when he was 18 months old, a suspected suicide. His youth in Uruguay remains a mystery, though we know that during this Ducasse’s youth civil wars and outbreaks of cholera beset the region.
When Isidore was 10, his father returned to France briefly and left young Ducasse with relatives in Tarbes to finish school. Isidore attended a couple of lycées in Tarbes and Pau where he was remembered as sullen introvert with a sharp voice and a distant, haughty demeanor.
At school, Lucien displayed a dislike for Latin and Mathematics, but showed interest in literature. He dismayed his teachers with ‘excesses of thought and style’, which, oddly, would later earn him a permanent place in French literature. After leaving school at 19, it is speculated that Ducasse traveled, perhaps to visit his father in Uruguay or in the Bordeaux region in France where he may have made literary contacts. Lucien received an allowance from his father that ensured him a comfortable living situation during his travels.
In 1867 or 1868, Lucien moved to Paris to study at the Polytechnic or School of Mines, though no enrollment records exist. While in Paris, most scholars assume he began composing Maldoror, (a name that has received various interpretations, from ‘dawn of evil’ to ‘evil from the beginning.’). Lucien took his own pseudonym, Lautreamont, presumably from Eugene Sue’s novel “Lautreamont”, which features an arrogant and blasphemous hero similar to Lucien’s Maldoror character. His publisher said that Lautreamont ‘only wrote at night seated at his piano. He would declaim his sentences as he forged them, punctuating his harangues with chords on the piano.’
In 1868, Lautreamont traveled to Uruguay to show his father the first part of Maldoror and get him to finance its publication. The first canto was published anonymously in 1868. Lautreamont arranged to have the entire work published a few months later by a Belgium printer who was partners with Lautreamont’s French publisher, Albert Lacroix, who had worked as an editor for Emile Zola, Victor Hugo, and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. The book was printed in the summer of 1869, but Lacroix and company feared prosecution because of the blasphemous and obscene nature of the work and never put the book on sale. Lautreamont pressed his publishers to release the book to no avail.
A year later, Lautreamont wrote them about his new collection of poems, a seeming negation of Maldoror that spoke of ‘hope, faith, calm, happiness and duty.‘Lautreamont did not complete this work, nor did he see his Maldoror available to the public during his lifetime.’
Lautreamont died November 24, 1870 in a Paris hotel room at the age of 24. In 1874, after the publishing house changed hands, Lautreamont’s works were finally made available to the public, but this initial publication met with little commercial success. It was not until a Belgian literary journal published Lautreamont’s work in 1885 that his work began to emerge from obscurity and find an audience among the literary avant-garde.
It was the 1927 publication of Lautreamont’s work in a magazine entitled, “At Any Cost” released by the Surrealists Philippe Soupault and Andre Breton that assured Lautreamont a permanent place in French literature, and conferred the status of The Patron Saint of the Surrealist movement.
Les Chants de Maldoror is considered to have been a major influence upon French Symbolism, Dada, and Surrealism. Several editions of the book have included lithographs by the French symbolist painter Odilon Redon. Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí also illustrated one edition of the book. The Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani used to carry a copy around in Montparnasse and quote from it. The outsider artist Unica Zürn was also influenced by it in writing her The Man of Jasmine. William T. Vollmann mentioned it as the most influenced book for his writing life.
To Read The Songs Of Malador In French ?