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on 29 December 2012
There might well be a vital requirement in the literary publication scene for a superior English translation of The Songs of Maldoror - not because of the general drift of the content, which is easy enough to convey, but because the subtleties and obscure complexity of the author's original wordgames demand the perception of a nimble linguist; it's something of a high-wire juggling-act, like dancing on the roof of a burning building.

Mr Lykiard's version - which is all it can be - reads quite well and succeeds in a general sense in conveying much of the spirit of the original, which is the main thing: Lautréamont was a devilishly-determined literary anarchist and that fact together with many examples of his perverse methods emerges clearly enough via the English text. Purists may quibble, but we still get the message of a bomb's blast without knowing every technical detail of its construction.

Almost any more-or-less accurate quotation gives a fair flavour of where Lautréamont was at: 'As beautiful as the trembling of an alcoholic's hands', for example; this handy compendium will certainly do until (if ever) a better one comes along.
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on 6 January 1999
As savage as it is beautiful, as challenging as it is rewarding, Les Chants de Maldoror is an inspired and disquieting exploration of the evil humans are capable of. I have read several translations, and this one is by far the best.
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on 18 April 1998
Isador DuCasse aka Le Compte de Lautremont is a great relatively unknown master who influenced the surrealists with Les Chants De Maldoror. An extended prose poem that destroy its own context (or total lack thereof). It can be looked on as either a great work or complete and total nonsense; I choose the former.
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on 9 June 2011
This review is of *Maldoror*, alone.

Lautreamont's *Maldoror* is legendary for its bold and complex phrasing and imagery, for its reputation of embodying Surrealism *avant la lettre*, and for its remarkably extreme, savage imagery. Less frequently remarked is its obvious debt to the earlier literature of the *Frenetiques*, such as Petrus Borel. Given the very few English translations of the latter, one may pardon those who do not read French for overestimating the originality of *Maldoror*. Francophones such as the Surrealists and Lykiard, however, have no such excuse.

The descriptions of *Maldoror* in the various Amazon reviews describe the content and style of the work perfectly well, so I shall neither repeat them nor try to outdo them. Instead, I shall offer a slightly less breathlessly adoring view of the work, in general, and of Lykiard's translation of it, in particular.

My view of *Maldoror* is that it is primarily a parody of the extreme tendencies of the "dark side" of Romanticism, in general, and of Byron, in particular. Although Lykiard dismisses Mario Praz's view of Lautreamont and *Maldoror* rather abruptly, Praz's observations seem quite germane, to me:

"[Lautreamont/Ducasse is] a macabre humorist in whom it is impossible to distinguish where sincerity ends and mystification begins".

Those who doubt this observation should have a look at Ducasse's extant letters, many of which bear witness to his desire merely to be a successful writer, and to be judged by the literary critics of the day. In a word, Ducasse/Lautreamont appears to have been precisely the sort of careerist *litterateur* whom the Surrealists excoriated and excommunicated from their ranks with tedious regularity!

As for Lykiard's translation, it is adequate, perhaps even the best of a bad lot, but that is hardly a compliment. It is certainly far from inspired. Although, as he trumpets *ad nauseam*, his version of *Maldoror* may be in the main less error-riddled than those of his competitors, it is frequently leaden and awkward. Compare, for instance, the following tin-eared rendition to the original, and then to Paul Knight's rendering of the same passage:

The original: "[...] car, à moins qu'il n'apporte dans sa lecture une logique rigoureuse et une tension d'esprit égale au moins à sa défiance, les émanations mortelles de ce livre imbiberont son âme comme l'eau le sucre".

Lykiard: "For unless he bring to his reading a rigorous logic and mental application at least tough enough to balance his distrust, the deadly issues of this book will lap up his soul as water does sugar".

Knight: "[...] for, unless he brings to his reading a rigorous logic and tautness of mind equal at least to his wariness, the deadly emanations of this book will dissolve his soul as water does sugar".

Granted, such evaluations involve much subjectivity, but there's no doubt in my mind which version reads both more accurately and more elegantly in English. Lykiard does, of course, deserve credit for demonstrating Knight's faults, as well, but that fact hardly excuses Lykiard's own errors and infelicities.

Lykiard's notes are not necessarily much better than his translations. To take but one instance, Lykiard tells us that "God is here (and *passim*) ironically addressed as *tu* rather than the more formal *vous*". If Lykiard were as clever as he'd like to appear, then he'd know that the French *always* address God as *tu*, and not as *vous*. Therefore, there is nothing ironic on its face about Lautreamont's usage, at all.

In sum, *Maldoror* is a sometimes powerful, but often puerile, *reductio ad absurdum* of *Frenetique*-era late Romanticism. Enjoy it for its over-the-top style and its infrequent passages of genuine and sincere poetic power. Do not, however, take it too seriously, because, although we shall never know for certain, my bet is that Ducasse/Lautreamont was little more than a prodigiously gifted adolescent who sought, as most adolescents do, simultaneously to shock and to impress the grown-ups.

June 25, 2011--update re. translations: Could the brand-new R. J. Dent translation of *Maldoror* finally be the one that many of us--minus the Lykiard camp followers-- have been awaiting? Stay tuned....
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on 5 August 2014
Great book, very dark poetry that enslaves you as you read.
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on 7 January 2011
The book came in perfect condition. took 4 weeks to arrive, but that's due to the snow in the UK I can imagine (since I live in France). but, yeah, it came, perfect quality and brilliant book.
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on 21 March 2015
Hard to beat.
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on 9 February 2004
This is one of the most wicked books ever written!
11 comment3 of 21 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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