Comte de Lautréamont

Uruguayan born French poet, Isidore Ducasse (1846-1870)

Comte de Lautréamont was the pseudonym of Isidore-Lucien Ducasse (4 April 184624 November 1870), a French poet born in Uruguay. His only works, Les Chants de Maldoror and Poésies, had a major influence on modern literature, particularly on the Surrealists and the Situationists. He died at the age of 24.

I replace melancholy by courage, doubt by certainty, despair by hope, malice by good, complaints by duty, scepticism by faith, sophisms by cool equanimity and pride by modesty.


  • God grant that the reader, emboldened and having become at present as fierce as what he is reading, find, without loss of bearings, his way, his wild and treacherous passage through the desolate swamps of these sombre, poison-soaked pages; for, unless he should bring to his reading a rigorous logic and a sustained mental effort at least as strong as his distrust, the lethal fumes of this book shall dissolve his soul as water does sugar.
    • Canto 1
  • I hail you, old ocean! Old ocean, you are the symbol of identity: always equal unto yourself. In essence, you never change, and if somewhere your waves are enraged, farther off in some other zone they are in the most complete calm. You are not like man — who stops in the street to see two bulldogs seize each other by the scruff of the neck, but does not stop when a funeral passes. Man who in the morning is affable and in the evening ill-humoured. Who laughs today and weeps tomorrow. I hail you, old ocean!
    • 1972 ed., p. 13
    • Original text:
      Vieil océan, tu es le symbole de l'identité: toujours égal à toi-même. Tu ne varies pas d'une manière essentielle, et, si tes vagues sont quelque part en furie, plus loin, dans quelque autre zone, elles sont dans le calme le plus complet. Tu n'es pas comme l'homme, qui s'arrête dans la rue, pour voir deux boule-dogues s'empoigner au cou, mais, qui ne s'arrête pas, quand un enterrement passe; qui est ce matin accessible et ce soir de mauvaise humeur; qui rit aujourd'hui et pleure demain. Je te salue, vieil océan!
  • There are those whose purpose in writing is, by means of the noble qualities of heart which their imagination invents or which they themselves may have, to seek the plaudits of other human beings. For my part, I use my genius to depict the delights of cruelty: delights which are not transitory or artificial; but which began with man and will end with him. Cannot genius be allied with cruelty in the secret resolutions of Providence? Or can one, being cruel, not have genius?
  • Farewell until eternity, where you and I shall not find ourselves together.
  • After some hours, the dogs, exhausted by running round, almost dead, their tongues hanging out, set upon one another and, not knowing what they are doing, tear one another into thousands of pieces with incredible rapidity. Yet they do not do this out of cruelty.
One day, a glazed look in her eyes, my mother said to me: ‘When you are in bed and you hear the barking of the dogs in the countryside, hide beneath your blanket, but do not deride what they do: they have an insatiable thirst for the infinite, as you, and I, and all other pale, long-faced human beings do.’
Since that time, I have respected the dead woman’s wish. Like those dogs I feel the need for the infinite. I cannot, cannot satisfy this need. I am the son of a man and a woman, from what I have been told.
This astonishes me… I believed I was something more.
  • I will leave no memoirs.
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