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Les Chants de Maldoror

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  3,355 ratings  ·  205 reviews
The macabre but beautiful work, Les Chants de Maldoror, has achieved a considerable reputation as one of the earliest and most extraordinary examples of Surrealist writing. It is a long narrative prose poem which celebrates the principle of Evil in an elaborate style and with a passion akin to religious fanaticism. The French poet-critic Georges Hugnet has written of Lautr ...more
Paperback, 342 pages
Published January 17th 1965 by New Directions (first published 1869)
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Average rating 4.18  · 
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 ·  3,355 ratings  ·  205 reviews


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Alejandro Saint-Barthélemy
1) Before reading Rimbaud I thought I would see fireworks; the problem was that I had read Lautréamont first.
(Michel Houellebecq)

2) After reading the last part of "Les Chants de Maldoror" I thought of giving up literature due to embarrassment of my own literary achievements.
(André Gide [in a diary entry, in 1905])

3) Lautréamont has been the biggest influence on my writing career. My books are toys for adults who have read Lautréamont.
(César Aira)

This book embraces both classical rules of art
...more
[P]
Dec 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bitchin
If you have been following my reviews for any length of time you will be aware that there are many things of which I am afraid. Spiders! Fatherhood! Demonic possession! Death! Yet it is increasingly the shark that haunts my mind like he haunts the sea, silently slicing through the darkness until he is upon me, intent on ripping out my throat! He is a ghoul, shaped like a knife-blade. He is swift and agile madness, with the skin of an elephant and teeth like the sharpest shards of glass. How feeb ...more
Capsguy
Jan 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Well wasn't that a ride, boys and girls?

Maldoror is a trip, and what a trip it is.

Being 20, I enjoyed the adolescent tone and nature of this prose poem, however I can see how other readers may view it as nothing more than grotesque random scenes with at times almost incoherent babbling.

The lack of central plot, and disjointed style of the story often led me to be confused, but I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing. I appreciate when others try to take a step out of the contemporary novel
...more
William
Nov 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book convulses with the vanity and putridity of being, it ebbs and flows with the hatred and desire, pride, and shame of life. It's the surreal and nonsensical, but not the childish and delighted, it's pure scorn and erotic indulgence. Recommended for the insane. Also, it's just fun. Weird, and fun.
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
The beginning of Canto the First ::
“May it please Heaven that the reader, emboldened and become of a sudden momentarily ferocious like what he is reading, may trace in safety his pathway through the desolate morass of these gloomy and poisonous pages. For unless he is able to bring to his reading a rigorous logic and a spiritual tension equal at least to his distrust, the deadly emanations of this book will imbibe his soul as sugar absorbs water.”

The beginning of Canto the Second ::
“What has bee
...more
Šarlo
Aug 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
"The wish to be a pig is a desperation arising from the inability to be human."
- Sreten Marić on Les Chants de Maldoror

The six chants of Maldoror are an untouchable literal success through the scopes of dadaist and surrealist intention and Lautréamont's personal artistic catharsis. It might be a somewhat subjective and unprofessional thing to say, but I am certain that the writing process was exhilarating, and it could not have been so had it not been "burdened" by its classic form, since Ducass
...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
Isidore-Lucien Ducasse, the author's real name, lived during a time, the mid-19th century, without an Internet, television, movies or cable (without even the Syfi Channel, home of the 'Sharknado' http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2724064/ and '30 Days of Night' http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0389722/ movies.

I have a point in including these two movies - Ducasse writes a famous shark scene, and there is a scene of a spider sucking blood from a dreamer's neck.

Today, 'The Songs of Maldorer', this historic o
...more
Adam
Oct 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Historically important and lyrically brilliant, Maldoror is nonetheless a tedious read for those who have accepted a godless universe and survived their tumultuous twenties (to say nothing of the immense chasm opened by the twentieth century). If you did not know Lautreamont died at 24, you would still know that the text in hand is that of an impetuous and visionary young man. Daring works are always necessary, but seldom does posterity preserve the heat of the moment from which a work drops col ...more
Andrew
Good god. Or as Lautreamont would put it, bad god.

Sometimes you fuck sharks after shipwrecks. Other times you get your jollies squeezing out the skulls of small children. Oh, and some hedgehogs hollowed out your scrote and live there now. Etc etc etc. When Lautreamont was a young man, he wrote some wild-ass surrealist shit that went on to inspire countless legions in France as well as a fair number of punk-rock types in the Anglosphere. It's not haunting, transcendent genius or anything like tha
...more
Josh!
Sep 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Third line: "It would not be well that all men should read the pages that are to follow; a few only may savor their bitter fruit without danger."
Well you know what mysterious French guy from the 1800s? I fucking loved it.
I was assigned to read two short excerpts of this for class, and instead of getting through it with the minimum pieces of flair, I read the whole thing. I couldn't not (fuck you double negative police.) This book is consider the ancestor of surrealism, and having been written in
...more
kaelan
Aug 03, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Les Chantes de Maldoror is best known for the praise afforded to it by the Surrealists. Of course, their infatuation is completely understandable: within these hallucinogenic pages, one may find the now famous line comparing beauty to "the random encounter between an umbrella and a sewing-machine upon a dissecting-table." But despite the obvious temptation, I strongly believe that we should avoid viewing Isidore Ducasse's magnum opus through the anachronistic lens of influence—i.e., as a "dark p ...more
Azjericho
May 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is THE BOOK! And when I say that, I mean it. Isidore Ducasse, Better Known as The Count of Lautréamont, is the "L'enfant terrible" by excellence. When you read the poetry of these pages, get prepared for all the misantrophy and rage emanated from the letters, but behind all you will meet the solitude of a young spirit confronted with the hipocrisy and banality of a cowardly society. Maldoror will make you laugh, cry, love, hate, live and die; he is the avatar of rebeldy, and with beautiful ...more
Justin
Sep 07, 2008 rated it it was ok
I'm not impressed. There's no plot and no structure, just page after page of debauchery. It's like one of the more ridiculous sections of Naked Lunch, but for 300 pages. It is kind of funny sometimes, though, like when the narrator has sex with a shark. I thought only Led Zeppelin groupies did that. ...more
Osiris Oliphant
the exact change version is beautiful and has notes
but in side by side readings
i like this version better
not to mention its extra wide margins
like two deadwhite legs straddling the text
which are said to have inspired
richard hell's voidoid
J.M. Hushour
Oct 12, 2017 rated it liked it
In a work reminiscent of the sort of wonderfully mindless and meandering crap that you'd expect from a trench-coated, emotionally (or sexually) insecure teen, the titular Maldoror, shark-fucker and god-hater extraordinaire, weaves his black and demonic way through a pastiche of abominations.
I can reduce its broad inanity to a few main themes:

Maldoror sits on a bench next to an 8-year old and feeds him evil thoughts.
Maldoror shoots shipwreck survivors as they crawl onto shore.
Maldoror fucks a sha
...more
Dusty
Feb 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
When I was at university, a TA in one of my poetry courses gave me this book and I was completely fascinated by it. Grotesque and macabre, Maldoror was something which seemed to me one-of-a-kind. Now, years later, I've revisited it: in short, I was not so enthralled this second time around. Perhaps its the fault of a modern sensibility, perhaps I'm a bit more cynical than when I first encountered Lautrémont. Either way, I find it now to be—when not mildly absurd comedy—rather dull and trite. To ...more
Jon Nakapalau
Aug 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: classics
One of the most disturbing books I have ever read, but there is no doubt that Isidore-Lucien Ducasse was a pioneer of Surrealism.
Adham
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
With a nightmarish pre-surrealist quality various macabre poems are painted in prose around the central figure. Lautréamont unleash his deepest secret fantasies, however murky and disgraceful the realms of his mind might seem. The cruelty and feverish style are combined with ironic references to classical authors. Contains many abundance of religious references, God, in particular. who appears routinely mocked, criticised and doubted. Many passsages still shock and, entertain with their feverish ...more
Jamie Rae
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a fucking book. Never read a damn thing like it.

I couldn’t muster a guess as to what book besides this would write about fucking a shark and teach you a dozen SAT words in the process. Ducasse clearly had a penchant for botany and ethology, as he can hardly go a page without dropping a Latin term for plant or animal. Maldoror, the eponymous anti-hero of this work is such an interesting character. Evil, yet sympathetic. Despicable in deed, yet steadfast in principle. I’m stoked to read Blanc
...more
Tait
May 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature, french
Entirely unknown in its time, this work was eventually rediscovered by the surrealists who hailed it as one of the two masterpieces that informed their movement, especially the line: "The chance encounter on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella." "The Songs of Maldoror" is a long imagistic prose poem about a relentless and possibly demonic anti-hero who has renounced God, mankind, and ultimately himself. Camus was also fascinated about this work and there are shadows of Maldoro ...more
Bradley Clacy
Jul 12, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: french, surrealism
Probably something I would have enjoyed when I was younger, more misanthropic and when my taste was less refined, but now having read it, I just find Lautréamont to be an immature, overly conceited, misogynistic misanthrope whose (at times) nice imagery and surrealistic driftings do nothing to save the text as whole. I couldn't wait for it to be over.

This edition also includes Lautréamont's Poésies, which are a collection of humanistic aphorisms in contrast to Maldoror. I found this section to b
...more
Aung Sett Kyaw Min
Sep 27, 2019 rated it liked it
This long prose poem narrating the exploits of the titular individual Maldoror can only be described as a savage celebration of wickedness.
At its most heightened moments, the bestial, form-rending imagery it evokes mocks the Creator and viciously assaults his character.
Listen attentively to the fanged pages, and you will be treated with contorted screams one might hear approaching a slaughterhouse.
Its walls are oozing with divine purulence.
For inside this hellish dome an omniphagy is taking p
...more
Phinehas
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This edition is not as good as Alexis Lykiard’s translation, but nowhere near as poor as Lykiard would have us believe.
Monty Milne
Jul 29, 2016 rated it did not like it
This is almost unreadable, though I made it to the end. In fact, the last canto was the least bad. Some of it made me laugh, though I'm not sure if it was meant to. There are amusing parts elsewhere, too, such as the description of having sex with a shark. I have never been sexually attracted to marine creatures, although I recall reading about an Irishman who was given a prison sentence for sexually assaulting a dolphin a few years ago. The prosecution witness was a snorkeller who claimed to ha ...more
Veli Can
Nov 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
After ending the chants I was convinced to write a review in order to give hints towards the approach of the writer, however the poesies, which is the most likely only part that I couldn't understand discouraged to do it. It is rather a funny idea to provide a sort of a commentary to the symbolic writers (this work is not surrealist in any sense), and even though my part would exist to further embellish the Maldoror, the poesies is written in such a way to disperse those such sympathies, even th ...more
Jessica
Aug 08, 2013 marked it as did-not-finish
I picked this up because I'd seen it on some list of (weirder) Gothic novels. While I can see how it could very easily have been influenced by Lewis's The Monk (possibly via Sade), it didn't really have any sort of Gothic feel that I could discern. But I also had no idea what was going on half the time, so who knows.

Lykiard's translation was poetic, but after the initial shock!gasp! sensation wore off (around page 20), I wanted more narrative. So... maybe I'll pick it up again when I'm in more o
...more
Marian C.
Jul 03, 2016 rated it liked it
A poor man's Les Fleurs du mal-- abundant in grotesque edginess but lacking in social awareness. Lautréamont was only 20 years old when he wrote it and one can notice that from his prose. Now, because of his obscurity some people will surely exaggerate and pretend that he's more relevant than Baudelaire or other "cursed poets". They're kidding themselves. It's Bauhaus to The Cure.

Fun read nonetheless. Easily impressionable millennials would worship this so let's hope that they never find it.
Michael X
Oct 29, 2009 rated it it was ok
I know that Maldoror is supposed to be the precursor to Surrealism and inspiring to so many artists, writers and poets around the world, but I found myself just bored and tired of reading. It is so dense and hard to decipher that I lost interest. I read half of it and assumed that the rest of it would be more of the same.
Gabriel C
Jun 15, 2010 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sam Fetters
Aug 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book is only impossible to put down because the reader hopes for the defeat of the protagonist, a vile sociopath that speaks of committing such cruel and devilish and self-aggrandizing acts against humanity in a casual, off-the-cuff manner. a classic examination of human ego and french surrealism at its best.
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Comte de Lautréamont (French pronunciation: [lotʁeaˈmɔ̃]) was the pseudonym of Isidore Lucien Ducasse, an Uruguayan-born French poet. Little is known about his life and he desired to leave no memoirs. He died at the age of 24 years old in Paris.
His only works, Les Chants de Maldoror and Poésies, had a major influence on modern literature, particularly on the Surrealists (similarly to Baudelaire an
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