Sunday, November 19, 2006

Along a line of right

Little is known about Isidore Lucien Ducasse, who later took the pseudonym Comte de Lautreamont. He was born in Montevideo, Uruguay on April 4, 1846 to a French Consular Officer and his wife. His mother died when he was 18 months old, a suspected suicide. His youth in Uruguay remains a mystery, though we know that during this Ducasses youth civil wars and outbreaks of cholera beset the region. When Isidore was 10, his father returned to France briefly and left young Ducasse with relatives in Tarbes to finish school. Isidore attended a couple of lyces in Tarbes and Pau where he was remembered as sullen introvert with a sharp voice and a distant, haughty demeanor. At school, Lucien displayed a dislike for Latin and Mathematics, but showed interest in literature. He dismayed his teachers with 'excesses of thought and style', which, oddly, would later earn him a permanent place in French literature. After leaving school at 19, it is speculated that Ducasse traveled, perhaps to visit his father in Uruguay or in the Bordeaux region in France where he may have made literary contacts. Lucien received an allowance from his father that ensured him a comfortable living situation during his travels. In 1867 or 1868, Lucien moved to Paris to study at the Polytechnic or School of Mines, though no enrollment records exist. While in Paris, most scholars assume he began composing Maldoror, (a name that has received various interpretations, from 'dawn of evil' to 'evil from the beginning.'). Lucien took his own pseudonym, Lautreamont, presumably from Eugene Sue's novel Lautreamont, which features an arrogant and blasphemous hero similar to Lucien's Maldoror character. His publisher said that Lautreamont 'only wrote at night seated at his piano. He would declaim his sentences as he forged them, punctuating his harangues with chords on the piano.' In 1868, Lautreamont traveled to Uruguay to show his father the first part of Maldoror and get him to finance its publication. The first canto was published anonymously in 1868. Lautreamont arranged to have the entire work published a few months later by a Belgium printer who was partners with Lautreamont's French publisher, Albert Lacroix, who had worked as an editor for Emile Zola, Victor Hugo, and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. The book was printed in the summer of 1869, but Lacroix and company feared prosecution because of the blasphemous and obscene nature of the work and never put the book on sale. Lautreamont pressed his publishers to release the book to no avail. A year later, Lautreamont wrote them about his new collection of poems, a seeming negation of Maldoror that spoke of 'hope, faith, calm, happiness and duty.' Lautreamont did not complete this work, nor did he see his Maldoror available to the public during his lifetime. Lautreamont died November 24, 1870 in a Paris hotel room at the age of 24. In 1874, after the publishing house changed hands, Lautreamont's works were finally made available to the public, but this initial publication met with little commercial success. It was not until a Belgian literary journal published Lautreamont's work in 1885 that his work began to emerge from obscurity and find an audience among the literary avant-garde. It was the 1927 publication of Lautreamont at Any Cost by the Surrealists Philippe Soupault and Andre Breton that assured Lautreamont a permanent place in French literature and the status of patron saint to the Surrealist movement.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always liked the fact that Lautreamont remains a mystery.

(re Man Ray's 'The Enigma of Isidore Ducasse' - no one ever cracks the enigma).

Another one of what I like to think of as the Main Progenitors.

Monday, November 20, 2006 8:15:00 am  
Blogger Dr Anthony Donovan said...

Certainly a main progenitor, as you say; with Jarry, Baudilaire. Wonderful book I read: 'From Symbolism to Surrealism', can't remember author.

I have no problems with the French.

Monday, November 20, 2006 9:49:00 am  
Blogger Bruce Bellingham said...

It is always reassuring to see a reference on the Web -- or anywhere else -- about the old boy, Le Comte de Lautreamont, whom the surrealists described as their muse and ancestral sherpa on their trek to the irreal. Many thanks for your murmurings, and your edifying devotion

Bruce Bellingham, San Francisco

Monday, November 20, 2006 5:09:00 pm  
Blogger Dr Anthony Donovan said...

Hello Bruce. Thanks for commenting. Nice citations: 'sherpa', 'irreal'.

Monday, November 20, 2006 8:18:00 pm  
Blogger Dr Anthony Donovan said...

Should point out, though, that in the spirit of plunderphonia, this tract is cribbed from elsewhere. I usually say. Forgot on this occasion to include link!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006 10:47:00 am  

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