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The Songs of Maldoror (Solar Nocturnal) Paperback – 5 Jul 2011

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (5 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0982046480
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982046487
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.3 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,166,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"His predecessor was Jonathan Swift and his chief executor was the Marquis de Sade.... Lautreamont was a black messenger heralding the death of illusion and the nightmare of impotence to follow." (Henry Miller) "The gate-master of tomorrow's literature" (Andre Gide)"

About the Author

R.J. Dent is a poet, novelist, essayist, translator, and short story writer. Among his many publications is a translation of Charles Baudelaire's The Flowers of Evil, also published by Solar Books.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I can't say I really agree with Infernal Books' review. I too have read the four different versions of Maldoror and R.J. Dent's translation is definitely the best of them. It's clear and to the point. Infernal has not bothered to mention that Paul Knight's version has huge extracts (over twenty paragraphs) of Lautreamont's original text missing. These missing extracts are in the Dent version, which is far superior to Alexis Lykiard's interpretation. The reason I say this is because English is clearly not Lykiard's first language. There are quite a few grammatical howlers in Lykiard's version; I counted over 35 mistakes. They jar. Guy Wernham's version is very sweet, but too old-fashioned to bother with. My other reason for buying the Dent version (apart from curiosity) was because it includes 22 Salvador Dali illustrations - which Dali was commissioned to create for the original French version of Maldoror. None of the other versions of Maldoror has these illustrations. The R.J. Dent version also includes an introduction on Maldoror and Surrealism; a preface by Paul Eluard, and a postscript by Jeremy Reed. It's definitely worth the price of admission... and it is very readable, as Amazon's `Look inside' facility readily allows the reader to see.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Amazing book for such a young man to write. The work is curious and aggressive for very good reason concerning individuality and the esoteric problems of some aspects of existentialism.
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Format: Paperback
Replacement copy. Have read this many times before, I Like it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
shocking and thought provoking. brilliant translation.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 2.3 out of 5 stars 3 reviews
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Songs of Maldoror by Solar Books - Solar Nocturnal 2 July 2011
By Infernal Books - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Songs of Maldoror (Solar Books - Solar Nocturnal)

This is the absolute WORST translation of this book that I have ever read, and I have read many different verions of Maldoror. Contrary to poplular belief, I think that Paul Knight's version is far superior to Alexis Lykiard's interpretation. The only reason to buy the Lykiard version is because it includes extraneous material, but otherwise, Knight's version reads better. As for the R.J. Dent version - it is unpickupable, much less readable. Save your money and do not let your curiosity get the better of you. The translator, in order to avoid being sued by the other translators, really had no choice but to choose the least likely and worst-sounding words for his translated version. I compared all three, and Knight's always sounds the best, then Lykiard's and then R.J. Dent's, respectively. This was just an attempt at pushing out garbage to make money, but the discerning reader would not waste his time or money on it, especially after having been warned!
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This historic opus of horrors is dull and boring 25 April 2015
By Wistful Angst - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This historic opus of horrors is dull and boring, despite the subversive and gruesome subject matter. Admittedly, the S&M scenes ARE still often stomach-turning and blasphemous; however, the author writes in an inventive style of his own which, frankly, puts each scene on the page with such nebulous and confusingly unique grammar that it makes the reading of this 'classic' a chore (originally written in French, there are four English translations - I liked this one best of the two I read). However, although individual sentences often sing with glory, even in translation, and some particular nightmarish descriptions of the narrator's activities have apparently sent generations of readers into ecstatic creative productions of Surreal Art, the only reason for anyone to attempt reading this book would be out of curiosity or for a Literature class. It is strictly a 'History of the Novel' read.

If googled, there is a lot of expert guessing about the author and his purpose in writing this unique book - was it transformed from real events or was it all imagination? The horror stories we see now every day on cable television, with vivid graphic gore commonplace and accessible to us sitting in our living-rooms would only be known to Ducasse either through conversation, pictures, books or having seen or done something similar in real life, in my opinion. I think this book is the work of a juvenile, or perhaps a schizophrenic, mind - intelligent and educated, but juvenile, a young man playing at being a 19th-century male goth; or he was simply unable to control the fantasies and images which may have been assaulting him. I think it is possible the author actually did some of these things (in a manner with no fantasy elements) or saw them done. Heavy use of alcohol-drugs give a schizophrenic or psychotic madness to thoughts and dreams, too. I was sure that the author had to be in bad health when he wrote this; when I read his bio (what there is), apparently it may have been as bad as I guessed - even if he only starved to death from Napoleon's war - but I suspect he was diseased as well. Syphilis, perhaps? In any case, he died at age 24.

From Wikipedia:
""Ducasse was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, to François Ducasse, a French consular officer, and his wife Jacquette-Célestine Davezac. Very little is known about Isidore's childhood, except that he was baptized on 16 November 1847 in the cathedral of Montevideo and that his mother died soon afterwards, probably due to an epidemic. In 1851, as a five-year-old, he experienced the end of the eight-year Siege of Montevideo in the Argentine-Uruguayan War. He was brought up to speak three languages: French, Spanish and English.

In October 1859, at the age of thirteen, he was sent to high school in France by his father. He was trained in French education and technology at the Imperial Lycée in Tarbes. In 1863 he enrolled in the Lycée Louis Barthou in Pau, where he attended classes in rhetoric and philosophy (under and uppergreat). He excelled at arithmetic and drawing and showed extravagance in his thinking and style. Isidore was a reader of Edgar Allan Poe and particularly favored Percy Bysshe Shelley and Byron, as well as Adam Mickiewicz, Milton, Robert Southey, Alfred de Musset and Baudelaire. During school he was fascinated by Racine and Corneille, and by the scene of the blinding in Sophocles' Oedipus the King. According to his schoolmate Paul Lespès, he displayed obvious folly "by self-indulgent use of adjectives and an accumulation of terrible death images" in an essay. After graduation he lived in Tarbes, where he started a friendship with Georges Dazet, the son of his guardian, and decided to become a writer.

After a brief stay with his father in Montevideo, Ducasse settled in Paris at the end of 1867. He began studies at the École Polytechnique, only to abandon them one year later. Continuous allowances from his father made it possible for Ducasse to dedicate himself completely to his writing. He lived in the "Intellectual Quarter", in a hotel in the Rue Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, where he worked intensely on the first canto of Les Chants de Maldoror. It is possible that he started this work before his passage to Montevideo, and also continued the work during his ocean journey.

Ducasse was a frequent visitor to nearby libraries, where he read Romantic literature, as well as scientific works and encyclopaedias. The publisher Léon Genonceaux described him as a "large, dark, young man, beardless, mercurial, neat and industrious", and reported that Ducasse wrote "only at night, sitting at his piano, declaiming wildly while striking the keys, and hammering out ever new verses to the sounds".

In late 1868, Ducasse published (anonymously and at his own expense) the first canto of Les Chants de Maldoror a booklet of thirty-two pages which is considered by many to be a bold, taboo-defying poem concerning pain and cruelty.""

The above information is from the following Wikipedia article: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comte_...

The historical record explains this book enchanted many artists who later read this book. Presto! The Surrealist Movement was born!
The below quote from Wikipedia:

Surrealists revived interest in Isidore Ducasse, known by his pseudonym Comte de Lautréamont, and for the line "beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella", and Arthur Rimbaud, two late 19th-century writers believed to be the precursors of Surrealism."

Many Literature readers and literary critics of ancient Canon Great Books love these intelligent, talented, drugged-out alcoholic, usually male (millennia of prejudice meant women were often forbidden to read anything but their religious books, if they could read at all) writers of genius whose real lifestyle invariably involves abuse of wives and children and prostitutes, while living in decrepit attics with filth on the floors-walls and insects crawling on them in their stupefied sleep, starving from having spent whatever cash they had on alcohol/drugs. Some of these authors ARE very good, and worthy of being respected as great writers (if not family guys), but others seem to have become totally psychotic and took up a pen while blitzed or having an episode of mental derangement. The world of mostly male Literature experts applaud wildly and buys every copy printed. Is it of value? Reluctantly, I say yes. At worst we females gain insight to the male mind. At best, some really wonderful books are written.

But this isn't one of those.

I think Ducasse appropriated the style of writing from the Revelations book in the Bible, but he wrote from a Lucifer follower's viewpoint, and placed his nightmarish scenes (dreams?) in his contemporary Paris, along with including particularly revolting religious imagery with the idea perhaps of creatively and satirically attempting to toss writing conventions (particularly in the grammar rules which identify the subject, i.e. 'I, you, me, they', so that there is a struggle by the reader to understand which narrator is speaking) and social mores of decency out the window. I understand the intellectual point of this. I can imagine the shock of a 19th century reader. However, for a 21st century reader, this book is a tremendous bore. I think there are lots of satirical transformations of other authors' philosophical writings and stories included (I saw references on the Net from experts who say that Ducasse stole entire sections of material, verbatim, from other books of the time.
1 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Book 11 Jan. 2013
By melissa willocks - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Happy with the book it is a gift and I'm sure the recipient will be very please. I'm all good.
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