Comte de Lautréamont

        French Poet
        M A R C H  1 3


          'I will leave no memoirs.'
          From Poésies - Comte de Lautreamont

        Oct. 13: Added Lautreamont book covers smartphone page

        Crikey! Comte de Lautreamont, born Isidore Lucien Ducasse. Uruguarian-born French poet who died at the age of 24. He came, he wrote, he went. We have one photo of him (below); we don't even know precisely where he's buried. A life that would have passed unnoticed into history but for one thing: the epic poem Les Chants de Maldoror, published two years before his death. Not that it brought him fame or money in his own lifetime: it was barely noticed when it was published and Ducasse himself paid for the first canto to be published anonymously. It is really down to the Surrealist writer Philippe Soupault discovering a copy of Les Chants de Maldoror nearly 50 years after his death that we even know about him.

        Imagine if Soupault hadn't gone into that Parisian bookshop, or the bookseller sold the only copy before he got there. Soupault's friend and Surrealist guru Andre Breton wouldn't have known of him, the Surrealists would have lost their prophet and Les Chants de Maldoror would have as lost forever from us as that unmarked grave where the bones of Lautreamont withered to dust.

        The chance find in the bookshop of dreams and all that. And you know what? I have a tenuous connection the Comte de Lautreamont! And when I say 'tenuous' I mean ten·u·ous! Well, here it is: Soupault found Lautreamont the best part of 50 years after the publication of Les Chants de Maldoror; I had correspondence with Soupault towards the end of his life (he died in 1990). That's it. Not much better than nothing but something nevertheless.

        More on Les Chants de Maldoror can be found here. Needless to say is a jewel that has to be discovered for oneself, a revelation patiently waiting for you. Nearly 150 years after it was published it still retains its majestic power to shock you, to humour you, to repulse you or to mystify you ... a proud relic of the future. Lautreamont makes Baudelaire look meek. If there is one book to read before you die this it it. Buy it here.

        Les Chants de Maldoror

        It is because of Lautreamont that I am so frustrated I don't speak French for there seems to be alot written about his work in French that hasn't been translated into English. One reason why we should all pay attention in our French lessons.

        The exotic name Comte de Lautréamont, or simply Lautréamont, was the name Isidore Ducasse chose to write under. It is Lautréamont we remember; Isidore Ducasse just doesn't have the same power. He was born in Montevideo, Uruguay. At 13 his father, a French consular officer, sent him to high school in France. At the age of 21 he moved to Paris where he lived like a hermit until his death 3 years later in the Parisien hotel he was living in. Ducasse died of fever when Paris was besieged during the Franco-Prussian War.

        The same year as his death he published a volume of poetry, Poésies.

        Ducasse addresses in Paris were Rue du Faubourg Montmartre 32 (room number 7) and Rue Vivienne 15.

        © - Paul Page (2008)

        The only known photo of Lautréamont, taken by Jacques Lefrère
        The only known photo of Lautréamont, taken by Jacques Lefrère

        {  R e c o m m e n d e d  R e a d i n g  }

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