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by Comte de Lautréamont

Translator and Introduction by Paul Knight

‘It is not right that everyone should read the pages which follow; only a few will be able to savour this bitter fruit with impunity.’

So wrote the self-styled Comte de Lautréamont (1846–70) at the beginning of this sensational Chants de Maldoror.

One of the earliest and most astonishing examples of surrealist writing, Lautréamont’s fantasy unveils a world – half-vision, half-nightmare – of angels and gravediggers, hermaphrodites and pederasts, lunatics and strange children. The writing is drenched with an unrestrained savagery and menace, and the startling imagery – delirious, erotic, blasphemous and grandiose by turns – possesses a remarkable hallucinatory quality.

The writer’s mysterious life and death, no less than the book itself, captured the imagination of surrealists. Jarry, Modigliani, Verlaine and others hailed it as a work of genius. André Gide wrote, ‘Here is something that excites me to the point of delirium,’ and André Breton described the book as ‘the expression of a total revelation which seems to surpass human capacities’.

This volume also contains a translation of the epigrammatic Poésies.