Insolent and defiant, the Chants de Maldoror, by the self-styled Comte de Lautreamont (1846-70), depicts a sinister and sadistic world of unrestrained savagery and brutality. One of the earliest and most astonishing examples of surrealist writing, it follows the experiences of Maldoror, a master of disguises pursued by the police as the incarnation of evil, as he makes his way through a nightmarish realm of angels and gravediggers, hermaphrodites and prostitutes, lunatics and strange children. Delirious, erotic, blasphemous and grandiose by turns, this hallucinatory novel captured the imagination of artists and writers as diverse as Modigliani, Verlaine, Andre Gide and Andre Breton; it was hailed by the twentieth-century Surrealist movement as a formative and revelatory masterpiece.
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