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.